Davy Pröpper is not completely tired of the football world. After a year of absence, the Arnhemmer returns to professional football. He signed a contract for a year and a half with his old club Vitesse on Thursday, where he has been training in recent months. In his own words, he regained an eye for the positive aspects of football, “even though the dark sides have not just disappeared”.
The return of the former Orange international is remarkable. At the beginning of last year, the midfielder abruptly stopped professional football because he no longer felt at home in the sport. He said he had long “adapted and closed himself off within football culture because of that isolated feeling”. Pröpper’s story was a special moment of public vulnerability and self-reflection. Professional footballers usually do not talk easily about their feelings and sometimes suffer in silence.
Pröpper then disappeared into anonymity for a while. But gradually the lack of football grew. In recent months he appeared again at the Papendal training complex, where he worked on his fitness. During that period he researched, so reads a statement on the club website Thursday, “in peace, whether the football fire in him would burn completely again.” In it he was given “all the space and time to listen to my feelings”.
Pröpper, previously active at PSV and the English Brighton, among others, had lost his fun in football in recent years and had great difficulty in “bringing up the discipline needed to perform optimally”, it sounded at his farewell. The decision came as “a relief” to him at the time. In the men’s world of football, it is not self-evident to discuss the theme of mental resilience anyway.
World football association FIFA launched a campaign in 2021 calling attention to mental illness among professionals. According to research by the international players’ union Fifpro at the time, 23 percent of active professional football players suffered from sleeping problems, 9 percent had to deal with depressive symptoms and 7 percent had anxiety. These percentages were even higher among ex-pros.
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