Before yesterday’s World Cup Qualifier against Wales, Belgian supporters unveiled this banner in tribute to former Welsh national team coach Gary Speed. It’s a small gesture, but with football’s current climate – which still sees incidents like this, this and this occur on the regular, it was nice to see.
Gary Speed took his own life in November of last year after a long battle with depression. The Sad Ronaldo meme that’s emerged in recent days after the Real Madrid’s strikers subdued goal celebrations were mostly in jest, but the idea that fans couldn’t fathom why someone ‘that has it all’ could be upset is jarring. ‘Walk a mile in their shoes’ is a cliche that rings true for me. While we envy these players for their abilities and the lifestyle that comes with them, we do a disservice to them and ourselves by not treating them with the some amount of respect and empathy that we take for granted as people out of the public eye. Depression can affect anyone at anytime, no matter how successful. The sporting community as a whole would do well to recognize this.