"The tide is turning on mental health," William said in a conversation with soccer players

By Simon Perry
July 27, 2020 04:10 PM
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David Beckham says that if social media had been around when he faced "brutal" criticism from fans after he received a red card and was sent off in the infamous game between England and Argentina during the 1998 World Cup, he would have found the vilification even harder.

Beckham took part in a recent conversation with Prince William in the royal's mission to make mental health a priority across soccer. The prince, 38, believes the sport can play a positive role in promoting mental well-being.

During the video call with William and other players, the former soccer star said, “I made a mistake in ‘98 and the reaction at the time was pretty brutal...If social media was around when I was going through that time, it would have been a whole different story."

Prince William and David Beckham
Adam Vallance/Kensington Palace via Getty; Getty Images/Getty

"But I was lucky, I had a support system within Manchester United, the manager and obviously family. But did I feel it was okay at the time to go to someone and say I need help? No, because it was a different era, and I just felt that I had to keep it all in and deal with it myself. Whereas now, I’m the one preaching to my kids and to other kids that I talk to out there that it’s really important to talk."

Kensington Palace

"We all know now that it’s okay not to be okay, and it’s ok to say that. It’s okay to come out and say I need help," Beckham added.

William recently launched the landmark Mentally Healthy Football Declaration signed by leaders of the entire U.K. soccer family. The declaration is the culmination of the Heads Up campaign that has been running throughout the season, which has been disrupted and extended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Thanking the senior players and officials who took part in a call last week, William said, "I really hope that you guys feel that the tide is turning on mental health and we are making progress."

During the chat, England and Manchester City player Steph Houghton added, "As a leader, you try and be this person that’s always strong and always really positive, but the reality is sometimes you’re going to have a bit of a bad day. I think the way that you grow as a leader and [create] the environment for people to open up is if you show that little bit of vulnerability – maybe one day you do have a bad day, you’re a bit down or you’ve maybe not played as well as you possibly can, it’s ok to show that.”

It is the latest move by William as the season reaches its conclusion. In May, the dad of three continued this work talked more about the initiative in the BBC program Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health, in which he opened up about the importance of mental health in conversations with a number of high-profile athletes about their personal struggles, both in-person and via video chat.

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William followed this up in June with a video call with the coach, players and staff of Premier League team Arsenal FC to talk about Heads Up — while cheekily asking French international goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if he would leave the club and play for the Aston Villa team William and son Prince George,7, passionately support.

Next weekend, on August 1, the English soccer season comes to an end with the FA Cup Final which has been renamed the Heads Up FA Cup Final.

Out on the field, William is celebrating that his favorite team Aston Villa managed to stay in the Premier League. He tweeted on his official account late Sunday, jokingly saying that he always had faith that they would survive.

"Never in doubt," he quipped, signing off with a hashtag of UpTheVilla.