England soccer international Dele Alli says he recently spent six weeks in rehab to help with his mental health and treatment for “addiction and trauma,” revealing he had been molested when he was a child and dealt drugs at the age of eight.
“So, at six, I was molested by my mom’s friend, who was at the house a lot,” Alli told former Manchester United defender and England international Gary Neville on The Overlap podcast, which was made available on Thursday.
“My mom was an alcoholic, [so] that happened at six. I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back. At seven, I started smoking; eight, I started dealing drugs,” added Alli.
“An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight. Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man.”
CNN was unable to reach Alli’s mother for comment, but in a 2018 interview, she told the Daily Mail that it was “painful that we’ve become estranged and the hard part is I don’t really know why.”
At the age of 12, Alli says he was adopted.
“If God created people, it was them,” Alli told Neville of his adopted family. “They were amazing, and they’ve helped me a lot, and that was another thing, you know –- when I started living with them, it was hard for me to really open up to them, because I felt within myself, it was easy to get rid of me again.”
Asked by Neville about his relationship with his birth mother, Alli answered that he doesn’t speak to her after his parents went to the media with a story about his adopted family.
“After that, I just felt so betrayed and let down and hurt that I just couldn’t keep the relationship with my mom,” said Alli.
The 27-year-old Alli most recently played for Turkish Süper Lig side Beşiktaş before returning to parent club Everton in the English Premier League after his spell in Turkey was hampered by injuries.
After returning to the UK, Alli decided to enter rehab.
“I was in a bad place mentally. I decided to go to a modern day rehab facility for addiction, mental health and trauma” said Alli.
“I felt like it was time for me. With things like that, you can’t be told to go there. You have to make the decision yourself.
“I was caught in a bad cycle, I was relying on things that were doing me harm. I was waking up every day and [I] was winning the fight, going into training, smiling, showing I was happy, but inside, I was definitely losing the battle and it was definitely time [for me] to change it.”
Alli told the Overlap podcast that Everton had been very supportive of his decision to enter rehab and how “open, honest, and understanding” the Premier League club was while he was “probably making the biggest decision of [his] life.”
“I couldn’t have expected it to go the way it did. Before you hear about it, it has [this whole] stigma. It’s something people don’t want to do, going into rehab, it definitely sounds scary.
“But I could never have imagined how much I would get from it and how much it [would help] me mentally because I was in a bad place.”
In a statement, Everton said it had been supporting “Dele in both his return to fitness and overcoming the personal challenges highlighted in his interview with The Overlap.”
“Everyone at Everton respects and applauds Dele’s bravery to speak about the difficulties he has faced, as well as seek the help required,” Everton added.
Alli’s former club, Tottenham Hotspur, tweeted a picture of Alli alongside an emoji of a white heart.
The former Spurs star added that he had only checked out of rehab three weeks prior to appearing on Neville’s podcast.
“It’s been going on for a long time (my addiction) … the things I was doing to numb the feelings I had. I didn’t realize it was for that purpose, whether it be drinking or whatever.
“I got addicted to sleeping tablets and it’s probably a problem that not only I have. I think it’s something that it’s going around more than people realize in football.”
Alli told Neville that he had chosen to speak out about his problems in the hope that he can help people who may be dealing with similar issues.
“If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk about it this soon, I think maybe give it a little bit more time … I maybe could have done with a little bit more time in terms of when I was talking about it, but unfortunately, the way the world is now, you know the tabloids they found out and they was calling my team a lot and they were telling that they knew where I was and stuff.”
CNN has contacted Tottenham and Beşiktaş asking for comment on the support they have offered Alli.
“The medical protocols and practices for players are managed directly by their clubs. We expect all clubs and their doctors to uphold the highest level of medical practice by providing treatment, support and advice to their players that meets their required professional standards, said the English Football Association in a statement sent to CNN.
“Support services are also available for players who are affected by addiction through the PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] and the Sporting Chance mental health charity, which are both supported by The FA,” added English soccer’s governing body.
The Premier League told CNN that it has a variety of methods to help support struggling players, past and present.
These include funding an independent player helpline, offering support workshops, and providing practical steps to help vulnerable players including counseling sessions and residential support.
Editor’s Note: If you live in the US and are or know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or visit the hotline’s website.
If you are outside of the US, please check CALM’s list of international services offering mental health support.