The camaraderie in the stadium when your team scores a screamer. The heartbreak when your side concedes a last-minute try. The jubilation as your team gets their hands on the big shiny thing at the end of the season. Sport evokes a vast range of emotions in us – we can go from feeling elated to devastated in the blink of an eye. The highs are so magnificent, the lows so crushing, yet they make the good times so worth it.
Sport can offer us an escape. We dive into this world where three points are suddenly life and death, where “next goal wins” is like a call to arms. No matter what sport, no matter what level, if your team wins, you feel good, you feel healthy and for me, football has played such a crucial role in my mental health over the past few months.
Being on my year abroad, I spent most of my first semester feeling isolated and alone, my mental health deteriorating day by day. However, I was able to find solace in supporting my football team, Liverpool.
Whenever the Reds took to the field, I could forget about the negativity that surrounded me and lose myself in the moment – 90 minutes’ worth of incredible, nail-biting, magnificent football. Liverpool Football Club allowed me to smile in spite of how down I felt.
Every piece of brilliance from Sadio Mané made me appreciate the position I was in, to feel lucky enough to even have this opportunity; every imperious display from van Dijk gave me the strength to keep fighting, to stick it out another day and every last-minute winner gave me the belief that things would turn around, that I would feel better.
When I wasn’t watching Liverpool take to the pitch, I was listening to fan podcasts, reading articles and watching highlights from teams up and down the UK and across Europe. If being a football fan makes me happy, then I thought it best to maintain that warm feeling for as long as I could.
Now, I’m not saying falling in love with a sport will right all your mental health-related struggles, it doesn’t. But I truly believe that sport’s ability to establish such a strong emotional connection between fans, club and players is a wonderful thing. With so much wrong with the world at the moment, taking a break from it all can be the ideal remedy – and there’s no greater escapism than sport.