Fred talks mental health and social media abuse
For many, summer is a time to relax and unwind. This is not the case for footballers, with several Reds competing for glory with their countries at the moment.
After a year of virtually non-stop football since Project Restart, physically it may be becoming harder for players to raise their games to the levels to which we have become accustomed. Mentally too, many will be as ground down as the rest of us, over a year into the ongoing pandemic.
Understandably, supporters often struggle to empathise with their heroes’ struggles. Aren’t they being handsomely rewarded, while travelling the world? Aren’t they fulfilling the dreams of millions of young boys and girls from across the globe? Yes, players are in privileged positions. They know this and the vast majority will never forget it, or take it for granted.
At the same time, it’s hard for you and I to truly get a handle on just how tough an environment modern sport can be.
Manchester United midfielder Fred is well aware of the glare of the spotlight that’s shining on him every time he takes the stage for club and country, especially as he’s currently a starter for Brazil in a home Copa America.
He views pressure as part and parcel of the game, in a conversation which touches upon how elite-level players take care of their mental health, but says you have to be a certain type of person to get by.
“You're at one of the biggest clubs in the world, not just at Manchester United but with the Brazil national team as well,” Fred told us, in the latest episode of our ‘My Story’ series, which seeks to open a window into what really makes our players tick.
“I played at the World Cup for one of the biggest footballing nations, if not the biggest.
“There are a lot of demands upon you, and, in football, there should be a lot demanded of you. The fans and press have a right to be demanding.
“You have to have a good head on your shoulders and know how to deal with these demands. Obviously there are people wanting to disparage you and put you down and you need a strong mind to deal with that.
“I'm someone who tries to block it out and focus on football, my mental health and the wellbeing of my family. I'm very relaxed about it all.”
While criticism is expected from time to time, clearly, a line can be – and is regularly – crossed, something Fred knows all too well.
The Brazilian was the subject of racist chanting during a Manchester derby in December 2019 and received abuse on social media in March, after a mistake against Leicester in the FA Cup.
Social media dominates the agenda these days, and pressure is being put on the big companies like Twitter and Facebook to change their policies to make those who do abuse others more accountable.
Until that happens, Fred has developed his own method for coping, trying to separate the online world from his home life.
“We live in a society where social media is everything, and where anyone can go on social media and abuse someone else - being racist, homophobic and bigoted,” Fred added. “Unfortunately, that happens these days.
“I see things but try not to let them get to me, leave them there on social media, I look at it sometimes but I don't not let it get to me or internalise it.
“I don't bring it home with me or let it affect my health as it would be harmful to me.”
While this type of behaviour certainly cannot be ignored or ever swept under the carpet, the former Internacional and Shakhtar Donetsk man feels we'd all be in a better place if we learned to switch off every now and again.
“The advice I'd give to young people would be to reduce your time on social media.
“At home with my family, when I'm with my son, I aim to spend as little time as possible on my phone or connected to anything. I try not to look at the news as it's not good for you.
“Phones take up a lot of our time… so spend time with your family away from your phones, step away from social media and, most importantly, be happy.”