Per Mertesacker reaps praise, criticism for speaking of pressure felt during career | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 11.03.2018
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Per Mertesacker reaps praise, criticism for speaking of pressure felt during career

Arsenal center back Per Mertesacker has raised more than a few eyebrows with comments about how much pressure he has felt throughout his career. He also said that he was glad that his playing days were coming to an end.

The comments published in Saturday's edition of Der Spiegel news magazine painted a picture of a man who has hated his job ever since he became a professional footballer 15 years ago.

Per Mertesacker, who is to hang up his boots at Arsenal at the end of the season to take up a job coaching at the Premier League club's academy, said he has been so nervous before every game that he feels like vomiting and struggles with diarrhea.

"The pressure has eaten me up," he said.

The 33-year-old former national team and Werder Bremen player said that he had taken great pains throughout his career to keep his nerves hidden from his teammates, due to the shame he felt and worries about possible consequences for his career.

'No desire' left to play

He said many have told him that he should enjoy the last few months of his playing career, but that he had "no desire" left to play the game.

"I'd rather sit on the bench, or even better, in the stands," he said.

The 2006 World Cup in Germany seems to have been particularly torturous for Mertesacker.

"It's finally over"

"The pressure ate me up. There was this constant horror scenario of making a mistake that could lead to a goal," he said, before conceding that although he was disappointed when Germany were eliminated by Italy in the semifinals.

"I just thought: It's over, it's over. It's finally over," he said.

At the same time, Mertesacker said he was conscious of the fact that as a footballer, he has had a privileged life, and that he appreciated all that football had given him.

Through his comments, the 33-year-old defender said he wanted let up-and-coming youngsters know that there is another side of the coin to a career as a footballer – and that in his next job, he plans to "attack the system."

It is also worth noting that Mertesacker was a squad member at Hannover when goalkeeper Robert Enke decided to take his own life after battling with mental illness. 

Can Mertesacker remain in football?

Reactions to his comments have been mixed. While many have praised him for speaking so openly about the problems he experienced, others have been quite critical.

Former national team player Lothar Matthäus questioned his choice to remain in football after his playing days are over.

Per Mertesacker erklärt Rücktritt aus Nationalmannschaft (picture alliance / Pressefoto Ulmer)

Mertesacker during the 2006 World Cup

"After these statements how does he expect to continue to be active in professional football? How is he going to teach a young player about professionalism when he says the pressure is too much? This can't work," Matthäus said.

Christoph Metzelder, who was Mertesacker's teammate during the 2006 World Cup was surprised by his comments about that tournament.

"I didn't experience the 2006 World Cup as being anything like that," said Metzelder, who now works as a commentator for German pay-TV station Sky.  "At a certain point, we were riding a wave," he said, referring to the enthusiasm that gripped Germany during the tournament.

pfd/ftm (SID, dpa)