File image of Dele Alli© AFP
Dele Alli revealed on Thursday that he has recently come out of rehab for a sleeping pill addiction after struggling to deal with the trauma of suffering sexual abuse as a child. The Everton midfielder, who was once one of English football’s brightest talents, told Gary Neville’s “The Overlap” podcast about how he was also dealing drugs by age eight before his life was changed by being adopted by a new family as a 12-year-old.
Alli, 27, shot to fame under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham and was a key part of the England side that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.
His career on the field has been in decline in recent years as he fell out of favour at Spurs before struggling to make an impact at Everton or on loan at Besiktas last season. However, he explained how those struggles are rooted in a series of childhood traumas that he tried to block out.
“At six I was molested by my mum’s friend, who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic,” said Alli. “Then I was sent to Africa (to his father) to learn discipline and then I was sent back. (At) seven I started smoking, eight I started dealing drugs.
“An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight.
“Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man. Twelve, I was adopted… I was adopted by an amazing family like I said, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’d done for me. If God created people, it was them.”
Sleeping pill problem widespread
Alli added that he hopes by speaking out he can help others that have suffered similar abuse. Prince William and Alli’s former Tottenham teammate Harry Kane were among those to pay tribute to his bravery in coming forward.
“Brave and inspirational @dele_official,” tweeted the Prince of Wales, who is an ambassador for mental health charities.
“Discussing mental health is not a sign of weakness. Let’s keep the conversation going. We’re all with you and we wish you the very best.”
Kane and Alli struck up a prolific partnership in the early days of their career together at Spurs. “Proud of @dele_official for speaking out and sharing his experience to try and help others,” tweeted the England captain.
Alli he said a six-week spell in rehab in the United States has helped rekindle his passion to get his football career back on track.
“Going into rehab is definitely scary but I could never have imagined how much I would get from it and how much it would help me mentally,” he said.
“I was in a bad place. A lot happened when I was younger that I could never understand.”
He also warned that the dangers of sleeping pill addiction are widespread in football, where players are often prescribed tablets before and after matches.”I got addicted to sleeping tablets and it’s probably a problem that not only I have, I think it’s something that’s going around more than people realise in football,” he said.
“To take a sleeping tablet and be ready for the next day is fine, but when you’re broken as I am, it can obviously have the reverse effect because it does work for the problems you want to deal with.”
Everton said Alli would be focusing on his mental and physical well-being ahead of the new season, which starts next month. “Everyone at Everton respects and applauds Dele’s bravery to speak about the difficulties he has faced, as well as seek the help required,” the club said in a statement.
“Dele will not be conducting any further interviews in relation to his rehabilitation, and we ask that his privacy is respected while he continues his recuperation from injury and receives the full care and support needed for his physical and mental well-being.”
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