Something is going on with Andreas Christensen. The Danish centerback is not injured but pulled out of the FA Cup Final lineup late. Said Thomas Tuchel:
“He told me he was not ready to play the match, to start the match and be on the bench. He had his reasons. They stay private and confidential. It was not the first time as you can see over the last weeks that we had some of the same situations. That’s why he did not play regularly over the last weeks.”
Tuchel and Chelsea have confirmed that he is not carrying any sort of physical injury. I am not going to speculate about what he is dealing with. It’s inappropriate and not my place. But clearly, something is not right, and it’s affecting his life and his work.
The response online yesterday to Tuchel’s comments and the news more generally about Christensen was, as you’d expect, mixed. Fortunately thus far, I haven’t seen any regressive, backwards takes from the media / punditry. But I’ve seen plenty of awful, toxic responses from Chelsea (and football) fans. It’s a sobering reminder that we still have plenty of work to do when it comes to moving society towards being more tolerant, accepting, and kind, especially when issues of mental health may (or may not in this case) be involved.
Earlier this week, 17-year old Blackpool player Jake Daniels became the first professional footballer to come out since Justin Fashanau did so in 1990. The response from across the football world was supportive - players, clubs, and governing bodies all offered messages of encouragement. But there were plenty of hateful people online spewing nonsense, vitriol, and garbage.
The same thing happened with the announcement from the USWNT yesterday that after years of negotiating work, court battles, advocacy, and struggle, they’d reached an agreement with U.S. Soccer for equal pay with the USMNT as well as a bunch of other equality-related changes.
The same thing happens when racism rears its ugly head.
From where I sit (and it’s important to keep in mind that is a cis-het white man, my opinion of how well and how far we’ve moved society forward and whether it’s “enough” is not the best barometer), we are moving society forward. Despite an alarming trend of regressive policies from governments around the world, socially we’re doing alright. I truly believe and feel like more people, writ large, are pulling in the right direction to make society more equitable and just.
But the deluge of hateful, intolerant, or maybe (hopefully) just misinformed comments whenever we announce a victory is a reminder that we have plenty more to do. It’s especially important to remember to keep working for the good with respect to causes that aren’t “in vogue” anymore. Anti-racism isn’t front of the public consciousness anymore but that doesn’t make the work any less important or needed. That’s why the players continue to take a knee before every match. We’re not finished working.
It’s mentally draining, I know. When good things happen, like Jake Daniels coming out to vocal support from around the football world or the USWNT winning their struggle for equal pay, we should be happy and enjoy the victories for equality. We should hold onto and remember that feeling and use it as fuel to make more positive change.
Circling back, it’s important to me on a deeply personal level that we work towards and achieve that same positive change in the realm of mental health — removing the stigmas, misconceptions about, and negative stereotypes associate with all the things millions of people deal with daily. I don’t know what Andreas Christensen is going through or if it’s even an issue of mental health (but it definitely seems that way). I do know that he deserves to be treated with kindness, compassion, and understanding so that he can get right.