Dele's Revealing Interview Gives Timely Reminder That Footballers Are Human

Dele spoke openly with Gary Neville on the Overlap
11:39, 13 Jul 2023

Sat on a sofa alongside Gary Neville, Dele opened up about his life so far. It was an interview which gave us, for the first time, a true insight into Dele’s life and his upbringing. It also explained that he had been in rehab recently after becoming addicted to sleeping pills, which is partly why he hadn’t featured prominently for Everton last season. 

But the video also gave us a necessary reminder. Footballers are, before anything else, human. They are fallible, they make mistakes, but they’ve also been on personal journeys that none of us could possibly understand. Fans turn up and cast opinions on what they see on a Saturday afternoon, without consideration of how much sh*t each player has been through to get to where they are. 

Dele revealed for the first time how he was molested at the age of six, and sent to Africa at seven to learn discipline. He was adopted at the age of 12 and only had a short period of stability before being thrust into the limelight with Milton Keynes Dons at 16. It’s an absolute miracle that he became a professional footballer in the first place, let alone one of the best in the country. 


Dele played at a World Cup and won the PFA Young Player of the Year award twice in a row but his rapid rise eventually plateaued at Tottenham Hotspur. By 24, he was ready to retire and three years later he has had little impact on the pitch. Across the last few years he has been slandered by the tabloid press, labelled a party boy and written off as a has-been. 

All of this has been said without a single consideration of what the player himself was actually going through. Even if he had been out drinking every weekend, there would have been deep-rooted reasons for that behaviour. Footballers are human, and perhaps in this world of FIFA cards and social media, that gets forgotten along the way. 

There’s a real hope that this interview will change things. Dele’s absence from the Premier League in recent times has been baffling for some, given his obvious ability, yet now he has bravely explained the root of the reasons, it should help others. The world needs to be kinder, and that starts with the tabloid press, who are so often telling stories at the expense of somebody’s mental health. 

But Dele has also taken away their power in one interview. He got to tell his story in his own words, rather than be accused by the papers. There’s a certain level of shame that Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids hounded Dele’s team for an interview, and then he spoke on a Murdoch-funded platform in The Overlap. But at least the midfielder got to speak from the heart and open up to a clearly emotional Gary Neville, who coached him with England. 

There’s lessons in this interview for us all. Fans need to be kinder and more understanding, and the tabloid press need to be far more responsible with their reporting. Words matter, and they can have a catastrophic impact on an individual's life, especially if you don’t fully understand where they have come from, and what they have been through. 

Unfortunately, the tabloids won’t change. They’ll use this story for clicks and then move onto the next victim. But the public can be more understanding and believe everything they read. Elite footballers are wonderfully talented, and exceptional at what they do. But before all of that, they are humans. And humans are never perfect. What Dele has done is exceptionally brave, and speaks volumes of his character.

No longer a footballer who went off the rails, he’s now an inspiration and somebody who may have sparked a tsunami of change. 

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