In July 2014, Barcelona’s once-star Bojan Krkic faced a turning point in his career. At 23, he signed with Stoke City, leaving Barcelona, his “home.”
As the jet taxied toward the runway, Bojan had a debilitating anxiety attack and had to stop. The jet had to turn around and return to the terminal, leaving Bojan traumatized and afraid of traveling alone.
Bojan candidly recalls, “We didn’t reveal to Stoke what had occurred. It was a traumatic experience: the fear of flying alone still lingers.” Despite the traumatic setback, Bojan found the courage to resume his journey the very next day.
Little did he know that this seemingly routine decision would set the stage for the most remarkable phase of his football career.
Bojan, who describes English football as the “essence” of the game, found himself in a welcoming and supportive environment at Stoke City.
His new teammates greeted him with open arms, and the coaching staff, led by Mark Hughes, responded with understanding and compassion towards his anxiety struggles.
He even mustered the courage to open up to his coach, a pivotal step in managing his condition.
Bojan’s struggles with anxiety extended beyond flying. His journey of conquering anxiety and navigating the maze of mental health challenges forms the core of a documentary titled “Bojan: Behind the Smile,” released on Rakuten TV.
This documentary offers a poignant glimpse into the experiences that have molded him and highlights the rarely discussed subject of mental health in the highly demanding world of professional football.
In a pivotal career move, Bojan has returned to Barcelona, not as a player but as a football coordinator.
In this unique role, he aspires to provide unwavering support and guidance to young players exposed to the immense pressures and challenges that he once confronted in his early career.
His appointment represents a significant stride in dismantling the taboos surrounding mental health in football.
Bojan’s journey, from being the record-breaking wonderkid at Barcelona to contending with anxiety and now his role as a mentor at his former club, reflects a broader shift within the world of football.
Mental health issues are gradually being better understood, and the significance of offering support to young talents, both on and off the field, is being increasingly recognized.
Bojan’s early career was laden with intense pressure and sky-high expectations. He made his debut for Barcelona at an unusually young age and contended with anxiety attacks that threatened to derail his flourishing career.
Through the tumultuous journey, he received invaluable support from a psychologist named Josep Monseny, who guided him through his struggles and helped him master his anxiety.
Within the complex realm of professional football, the burdens are monumental, and the expectations are astronomical.
Bojan’s experiences within the dressing room cast light on the arduous trials that young players confront. In his youth, Andrés Iniesta, Thierry Henry, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped him understand the game and provided invaluable support.
Bojan’s story inspires resilience and growth. He learned to master his anxiety, accept that he was not destined to be the next Lionel Messi, and chart his own path in the football world.
Now, he’s back at Barcelona, passionately determined to offer support to the next generation of young players who face parallel challenges.
Bojan’s approach is anchored in empathy. He recognizes the need to nurture, guide, and provide protection for these young talents, who are exposed to a world where instant success and triumphs reign supreme.
In a realm where victories are paramount, Bojan’s role underscores the importance of nurturing both the players’ on-field prowess and their emotional well-being.
Bojan’s willingness to share his experiences and assist young players is a significant step toward removing mental health stigma from sports.
His life shows the power of resilience, empathy, and personal growth on and off the football game.