Hlatshwayo opens up about mental health, struggles at Pirates

SuperSport United defender Thulani Hlatshwayo has weighed in on mental health issues surrounding football players and opened up about his tough spell at Orlando Pirates.

Recently, Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Brandon Peterson and Burnley striker (in the English Premier League) Lyle Foster were reported to be battling with mental health and are receiving special psychological care at their respective clubs.

Hlatshwayo, now 33, is one of the players that endured a non-stop backlash on social media during his time at Pirates.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday World during the launch of the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge last week, the tenacious defender explained how social media can make or break a footballer.

“[Mental health] is something that we never really took care of or even thought it ever existed in our industry,” Hlatshwayo said.

“The game has evolved and when you look at some of the coaches that I played under – such as the late Styles Phumo, Shakes Mashaba and Gavin Hunt – they are old school and what they did was instill character in players.

Social media distractions

“But when you look at the modern generation, there are a lot more distractions like social media – where once you have had a bad game and go onto social media, you get to see all the negative things that are being said about you.

“So, social media can make or break you.”

Reminiscing about his topsy-turvy time in Mayfair, Hlatshwayo said he relates to what Peterson is going through.

“Everything that Brandon is going through, I completely understand because I have been there before. When I was at Pirates, I went through a tough time,” he said.

“I was able to overcome it through a good support structure around me. I believe mental health in football should be taken more serious.

“The players need to be supported because it goes a long way and contributes to them performing to the best of their abilities.

“Look at what Burnley did for Foster, they went all out to show support for him. We also just lost George Chigova, so you can imagine how it is affecting us psychologically.”

Hlatshwayo and Matsatsantsa will have to be at the top of their game when they host Mamelodi Sundowns in the DStv Premiership Tshwane derby at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Wednesday night.

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