How did you react to Declan Rice’s 97th-minute winner against Luton on Tuesday?
Perhaps you were one of the lucky few going mad in the away end at Kenilworth Road. Maybe you followed Ian Wright’s lead and took a moment to chuckle at Sp*rs’ expense. Or you were at home like Tim Stillman, expertly celebrating in utter silence so as not to wake up a sleeping child.
As a football supporter, the joy that accompanies a last-gasp winner makes all the effort worthwhile. The tension and the release. It’s glorious.
And yet, had Rice’s header flown past the post instead of nestling in the back of the net, Wednesday morning would have had a very different vibe. The papers would have turned on Arsenal, we’d now be second rather than top and confidence going into Saturday’s match at Villa would have taken an untimely knock. As fans, we’d probably also be very naffed off.
“Fine margins” is how Mikel Arteta describes such “Sliding Doors” moments.
And those fine margins exist everywhere. Day-to-day life, like 90 minutes on a football pitch, is far more precarious than we often care to think about. Left untouched, little problems can snowball and soon enough can become overwhelming.
It’s something Nick Hornby memorably touches on in Fever Pitch:
“See, after a while, it all gets mixed up in your head, and you can’t remember whether life’s shit because Arsenal are shit or the other way around…
…But every now and then – not very often, but it happens – you catch a glimpse of a world that doesn’t work like that – a world that doesn’t stop in May and begin again in August.
“There’s some stuff that just never comes back, and some stuff that just won’t go away, and some stuff that you can’t ignore even if you wanted to.”
Your health, relationships, work, family, money…you name it, they can all lead to tough days. Shit days, even. When that happens, it’s important to be able to speak to someone, to share how you feel.
You can bin all that ‘stiff upper lip’ bollocks of yesteryear. We have a problem in this country.
According to ONS data, one in five people will have suicidal thoughts in their lifetime, with suicide now the single biggest killer of men under 50 and the leading cause of death among children and young adults aged five to 34 in the UK. Government data shows incidences of self-harm in the region of 200,000 a year, and that’s just those reported by hospitals.
It’s far more common than you think.
That’s where the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) comes in. Founded in 2006 they are taking a stand against suicide. And that means standing against feeling hopeless, standing up to stereotypes and standing together to show life is always worth living.
They’ve put together a very strong team to help. Like Arsenal, they recently recruited Declan Rice and now they’re pairing him in midfield with legendary ‘Invincible’ Gilberto Silva.
The Invisible Wall versus invisible problems. It’s a perfect fit.
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“Sometimes we believe that we are superheroes, that we are unbreakable, that we are like Iron Man, but this is not true,” Gilberto told Arseblog News earlier this week.
“We are all human. And we have our fears, we have our concerns, we have our struggles, we have our bills to pay, we have our responsibilities, and for some people, it’s much harder to deal with all these kinds of issues.
“I heard about CALM a few years ago and started to understand the work they were doing. I believe their work is so necessary, so important for society, for all of us.
“I want to help them spread the work they are doing to help people understand that they are not alone and if they need help, CALM is there for them.”
From advice on their website about issues you might be facing to free, confidential chats with helpline staff, online or on the phone, CALM exists for anyone who’s struggling, every single day of the year. No matter what.
When Declan Rice was announced as a CALM ambassador last year, he said: “It’s about having that support network and having people you can speak to. Because no matter who you are or what you’re going through it should be easy to speak to the people you love. Just one conversation can make a positive difference.”
So who does Gilberto turn to when he has a problem? “Nowadays, mostly my wife,” he says.
“Before I got married, I used to share things with my parents most of the time. Or many times, I just thought not to concern people, not to concern my parents, because sometimes you tell your parents something and they never sleep again!
“Being a parent nowadays, I understand what is to raise a kid, and sometimes I didn’t understand in the past, but now I do understand, when your child has a problem, you don’t get some sleep. And now I understand why my parents were so worried when I was away playing football, trying to make my living through football.
“At Arsenal, most of the time I was talking to Edu, sometimes Patrick [Vieira], Lauren, Robert [Pires],” he adds.
“But we never spoke basically about the mental aspects, mental issues, because at that time it was not so common for players to talk about it. Our generation, when we were younger, we played with, let’s say, the older generation, they were like tough boys, you know, ‘men don’t cry here’.
“Nowadays, thankfully, it’s not like that, but at that time, this is how things work. I have seen a lot of players facing problems in their personal lives that affect their game, affect their personality, affect the way they live their life. But it was tough for them because they were not used to speaking about it.
“Men especially, we are not very used to talking about our personal problems, and personal issues, because it seems like you are vulnerable.”
It was the summer of 2002 when Gilberto’s life changed forever.
On the eve of the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, Emerson, the enforcer and captain of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s unfancied Brazil side, dislocated his shoulder in training whilst larking about in goal. Despite the likes of Kleberson, Vampeta and Juninho Paulista being tipped to fill the void, it was Atletico Mineiro’s Gilberto who got the nod.
The 25-year-old subsequently played every minute of the Seleção’s seven-game run to Yokohama glory and inside 29 days went from a nobody to the man who according to Veja Magazine, “carried the piano for Ronaldo and Rivaldo to play their tunes on.”
Weeks later, he joined Arsenal where he became a fulcrum of Arsene Wenger’s midfield and won the 03/04 Premier League title and two FA Cups. A spell at Greek giants Panathinaikos followed before returning to Brazil for stints with Gremio and former club Atletico Mineiro.
On signing in 2012, he outlined his desire to win the Copa Libertadores title. Seven months later, thanks to a penalty shootout victory over Paraguayan side Club Olimpia he did exactly that.
For much of his incredible career, Gilberto didn’t have to concern himself with the pressures of social media criticism. However, by the time he retired, there was no avoiding it. What should have been a fairytale ending turned sour.
When word broke in 2015 that he was taking Atletico Mineiro to court for reneging on certain financial agreements, as well as a lack of support when dealing with a career-ending knee injury, sections of the fanbase turned on him. It was a difficult situation that took a toll.
”When it came out, the fans came onto my social media and said I was a mercenary and stuff like that, lots of bad things,” he says.
“I was very scared by that. To make this decision is not something that makes me proud or happy to have taken the club to the court.
“Now, after a few years, we are in a conversation, a negotiation to finalise the case. I really like the club, it was the last I played for, I have a lot of care and love for the club. But there was a point when I was scared of going out on the streets, I thought people would harm me.”
For a while, Gilberto stopped using his social accounts but he’s recently joined forces with international teammate Roberto Carlos to launch a new service – Striver – an AI-moderated platform that proactively removes abuse. It remains to be seen whether it successfully cleans up social media like Gilberto used to sweep up opponent attacks, but you have to admire the effort.
“I think the problem is not exactly social media itself, it’s the people’s behaviour on social media,” he explains.
“If they behave on the street, like some of them behave on social media, I believe it would not be a good result for those kind of people. They hide their profiles, their faces, to attack people, to express their frustration because sometimes they believe, oh, these players, they got a good salary, they have to perform.
“The players, they are humans, like anybody else, like any support, any fan of any club. Sometimes things don’t work properly. Sometimes you don’t perform well. It’s not because you don’t want to.
“I think what we’ve seen is people crossing the line, getting into personal things. I have seen some people in the media as well, crossing the line, attacking players on personal terms, their families, it’s not right, I don’t agree with that.
“You can have a different opinion from anybody, but respecting everybody is so important for all our benefit.”
Former professional footballer Gilberto Silva is the newest ambassador for suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). CALM stands united against suicide and as part of his signing, Silva will help raise awareness of rising suicide rates in the UK, which sees 125 lives lost to suicide each week. 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience suicidal thoughts and CALM is there every day to help anyone who’s struggling see that things can change.
To find out more about CALM, services or for support or advice, visit thecalmzone.net