Marvin Sordelll was born in Pinner, West London in 1991. He joined Watford aged 16 and quickly made a name for himself as a striker who could make goals. He was picked for the England Under-21 team and played well. In January 2012, Bolton Wanderers paid a million pounds to bring him to the Premier League. Later that year, Marvin played for Great Britain at the London Olympics Games. He seemed well on the way to fame and fortune.
Struggling with the World Beyond Football
Marvin Sordell’s Football Career was full of instability and disappointments. His time at Bolton was marred by racism during a game at Millwall, and on social media afterwards. He moved clubs frequently: Charlton, Burnley and lower-league clubs like Colchester, Coventry and Burton. He became interested in social issues, especially relating to anti-racism. With his sister Nicole, he founded the Marvin Sordell Foundation to prevent and fight against human trafficking and to relieve the suffering of victims of human trafficking. All throughout this period, he was suffering from depression, though he did not yet make this public.
Turning his Back on the Game
In September 2018, Marvin Sordell spoke publicly about his depression: he revealed he had tried to commit suicide in 2013, and he explained the degree to which racial maltreatment had troubled him. In July, aged 28, he announced his retirement from football, describing it as “a beautiful game with an ugly persona”. In 2020, he contributed to a BBC documentary on racism in football. He continues to campaign for the world of football to acknowledge the need to do more to protect the mental health of footballers and other people involved.
Depression can be a hidden killer. In recent years it has caused high-profile footballers such as Robert Enke to take their own lives. It is now renowned that many other footballers have struggled in secret with the burdens of clinical depression. Marvin Sordell is important because he admitted publicly what had been troubling him, hoping to open the way for other sufferers to do the same and to seek help. He also shed light on potential reasons why players might not want to speak out about their mental health (potentially fearing an impact on their career), and revealed the extent to which players are, at times, bullied by coaches.
Educators could look at the life story of Marvin Sordell and work with young people to consider this question:
- What does Marvin Sordell’s experience with depression tell us about the role of racism in football?
- What are the responsibilities of those who run the game to protect the mental health of all people involved?
Find out more
To find out more about Marvin Sordell read “I will be a happier man” on The Guardian. Marvin Sordell is also the co-founder of Oneighty, a public speaker and a writer. Recently he also initiated Transition FC, an initiative that helps footballers with life after football. He is an ambassador to CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). Lastly, you find him on instagram and twitter.
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