#ReachOut: Marvin Sordell shares his story of depression

11 Aug 2021
  • Ex-Bolton Wanderers and Watford striker reached ‘breaking point’

  • Sordell is now a filmmaker, public speaker and writer and encourages anyone struggling to reach out

  • “Depression is like driving down a road in pitch black, and never imagining light.”

As a child, Marvin Sordell never imagined a future in which he wasn’t a professional football player. “It was what I put all my energy into, and it was the only path for me,” the former Bolton Wanderers and Watford forward said. “My earliest memories are of playing football. I never thought of becoming anything else.”

Sordell saw many of his friends were scouted for football trials and focused himself on earning the same opportunities, but as the young talent succeeded, the expectations grew. “The pressure was both internal and external. I was watching friends being scouted around 12 years old and I pressured myself into getting into that professional set-up. But externally too, when you made the step from under-16 to first-year scholar, that was the biggest step up in football that there is. 

“All of a sudden you go from something not that serious, to a professional environment, training double sessions and performing to elite standards every day. And I found that very difficult.”

Sordell’s passion for football had become an increasing pressure, compounded in 2012, when he became one of the game’s most attractive prospects. “2012 was both the best and worst year of my career. I began that year by signing for Bolton for £3million and had a chance to play in the Premier League, before I followed that by going to the Olympic Games with Team GB.

“But on the flip side, it was the most difficult period in my career. I’ve never experienced that level of pressure or expectation before. Representing your country at an elite tournament, playing in the Premier League and playing for England under-21s too. As a young player I was never the wonder kid or a stand-out player, I just tried to keep up with everyone else. I found the speed at which my life transformed, to being in the spotlight, very difficult.

“Emotionally I was very withdrawn. I felt the weight of the world on me, and I was in self-destruct mode. There was a point I got to, my breaking point essentially, when I attempted to take my own life. I didn’t feel as if it was worth living. Without joy, I felt ‘what is life?’”

Having reached those depths, however, something awakened within him. “I always look back to that period as the most important in my life. Without going to those depths, I wouldn’t understand life.

“Depression is like driving down a road in pitch black and never imagining light. You never imagine that changing. [But] the most important thing is being close to people, and that can be reaching out. You don’t always have to even talk; communication comes in many forms.”



FIFA has launched #ReachOut, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the symptoms of mental health conditions, encourage people to seek help when they need it, and take actions every day for better mental health. Current and former players, including Marvin, are supporting the campaign by sharing their personal stories. Befrienders Worldwide Befrienders Worldwide provides help and support to those in distress or suicidal, around the world. Visit https://www.befrienders.org/ and https://www.befrienders.org/other-helpline-organisations to find support in your country. Please note, while every effort is made to ensure information is accurate, FIFA is not responsible for the content of external websites. If you are in immediate danger, please call your local emergency services.