Losing My Spark at Dortmund
Playing for Dortmund, things were not working out for me that season. Amidst all the hype around my move, I was looking forward to another good season following my last one. However, this 2005/6 season was to be my worst performance as a professional soccer player. In my first 28-appearances I failed to score. It certainly wasn’t the successful year I had envisaged to have at Dortmund. It was very strange and it seemed as if I had I had lost my football skills.
I played almost half of the season and was a regular in the team but I just couldn’t score. I kept hitting the posts and had some shocking misses at goal. At best I can describe it as a surreal moment, similar to when someone meets an accident and then wakes up in half a comatose state, and then doesn’t know how to walk again. That was similar to how I felt on the soccer field. I just couldn’t play like I did before. There were some off- field incidents that may have played a part in my poor form - my house was broken into and both my wife’s and my car was stolen. Then our daughter Charlize fell down the stairs and had to be rushed to hospital. The guys that had come in to install the alarm after the break-in to our place had left the gate at the top of the stairs open when they had left – this led to her fall. It was a pretty bad fall as she was bleeding and was concussed, having been knocked out by the fall. I had also picked up two injuries that season, and kept on breaking down. Then when I did play, I hit the post seven or eight times - the ball just wouldn’t go in.
The problem was if you were signed to score and if you were not doing so, then pretty soon things are going to get uncomfortable. The year before at Bielefeld I was in top form and no one could stop me, but now at Dortmund it was the opposite. A real low point for me was when we played against Hamburg at home and after 30-minutes I was subbed off. The Dortmund supporters began jeering, and booing me. I could not believe it – my own supporters booing me!
Slumping into Depression
In the newspapers the management defended me and said it was disgraceful for the fans to boo their own player, as it was never Dortmund’s supporters’ mentality to do this. As a player you would expect the fans to stand by you when things were not working out. The club arranged for me to meet with the fan club to explain my poor form. I didn’t make any excuses and agreed that I was not good enough to play for their beloved Dortmund. I was honest because I knew that my form was putrid! The meeting with the fan club started off quite aggressively and it revealed the disgust they had for me – they said that I was the worst transfer ever made by Borussia Dortmund. A 9-year old fan asked why I was playing so bad compared to the last season, when I had scored 20-goals. I replied, “It was all a new experience. At Bielefeld they were a smaller club compared to Dortmund. Therefore, it could be that I needed some more time to settle in, I guess.”
My manager, Michael Zorc, saw that the pressure was becoming too much and he intervened to take some of the questions. When Ela and I were out shopping, I often received insults from some of the fans - even when I was doing promotions for the club at schools and malls. There were a lot of negative comments directed towards me. At an indoor fan club tournament a fan started berating me, “You should leave the club. You are the poorest signing Dortmund ever made.” Some of his pals had to quieten him down and they apologised to me for his bad behaviour. I told them it was fine as I was used to it by now. I couldn’t believe I was playing so bad and to feel so worthless was scaring me. That season I fell into a hole, a depression I couldn’t get out off. I had trouble sleeping and was a nervous wreck, being tormented by thoughts in my head telling me I was useless, a failure and the best solution was for me to end my life. To be honest, taking my life seemed like the best option to escape the turmoil in my head.
I couldn’t speak to anyone to share my feelings, as I was too embarrassed. If there was ever a time I needed a father it was then. This thought brought me to my senses - if I took my life, I would deprive Charlize of her dad. I couldn’t do that, especially as I knew what it was like growing up without a father around!
Delron Buckley will be sharing his experiences at the Depression in Sport panel disussion on the 30th May at the HPC.
For more information on the event or the book - visit www.DelronB.com or call Tel: 081 271 2242