June 13, 2024

‘Football helped me get my mental health straight’ – Sam Evans

Image caption, Sam Evans will captain Wales at the 2024 European Deaf Football Championships

  • Author, Chris Howells
  • Role, BBC Sport Wales

Sam Evans, the captain of the Wales Deaf Football team, has been having a season to remember.

Evans recently travelled to Greece to play in the Deaf Champions League for London-based St John’s Deaf FC where they finished fourth.

The hearing team he plays for, Afan United, were winners of Division One West in the South Wales Alliance League.

And for Wales he will compete at the 2024 European Deaf Football Championships in Turkey.

Wales begin their campaign on Monday, 20 May against England, with further Group B games against Scotland, Germany and Greece,

Football has always been important to Evans but for him the sport has huge importance.

Ten years ago, Evans was at a particularly low ebb in his life after the glitter of being a reality show winner had worn off.

It was football that helped save him.

In 2013, the then 23-year-old Evans, who had been born with 30% of what would be considered normal hearing, was selected to be a contestant in the 14th series of Big Brother.

“I remember the day that we were going in like it was yesterday, it was probably the most nerve-wracking experience I’ve ever had times 10,” Evans said.

“As time went on the group got smaller, I started coming out of my shell because I could be myself a bit more.”

Sixty-seven days after Evans had entered the Big Brother house, series presenter Emma Willis announced that he was the winner.

“I was walking around a feeling a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t really know how to behave; I think I was just a bit in awe,” Evans said.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, “I felt I was expected to have a rich and luxurious lifestyle, when the reality was that I had to go back to work” – Sam Evans on winning Big Brother in 2013

Within 10 weeks Evans had gone from being a stockroom assistant in a department store to one of the most recognised faces in the UK.

“It was crazy, I got a feel of what it’s like to be a famous person,” he said.

“Nights out were ‘wow!’, people constantly wanting to talk to you, wanting a photograph.

“You can’t get a moment for yourself. When you’re walking along the street, in a shop or the garage, people came up to you.

“Then you get an email from a television production company asking you to do this or that, interviews, and other things.

“You’re doing something new every day, travelling all over the UK doing different things and then, after a year or so, I started to notice that emails were coming in less and less.

“People don’t come up to you as much. They recognise you but they don’t make so much of a fuss.

“After Big Brother when the celebrity aftermath started to wear off, it felt like nothing was good enough anymore.

“It felt like nothing could compare to the experience I had just gone through in the house and outside.

“I also felt that I was being judged or being compared to reality stars who continued to have popular tv work and I was questioned why I wasn’t on that show etc.

“I felt I was expected to have a rich and luxurious lifestyle, when the reality was that I had to go back to work.

“That’s when I… started focusing on football more, with Wales Futsal and Great Britain Deaf. When I played football again it made me realise again who my true friends were, and it made me open my eyes up about who’s real or not.

“Football made me forget about the difficulties that I was going through, it helped me get my fitness back on track and get my mental health straight.”

Over the last 15 months, Evans has been on another journey when the Wales Deaf Football Association (WDFA) fielded an 11-a-side team for the first time since the late 1990s – and he was selected.

The quality of players the WDFA was able to recruit prompted them to enter the Wales squad into the EuroDeaf Championships, where Evans will captain them.

“It’s a massive achievement for me to be the captain of Wales. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come after everything I’ve been through,” he said.

“We’re going to give it 110%, I think that’s just the Welsh blood in us, we’re very passionate.

“We’re a very close-knit team, we’re like a family and I believe that will help us tremendously when we go to Turkey.”

Wales Group B fixtures

Monday, 20th May – Wales v England 15:00 BST

Wednesday, 22nd May – Scotland v Wales 08:30 BST

Thursday, 23rd May – Germany v Wales 15:00 BST

Friday, 25th May – Wales v Greece 08:30 BST

BBC Action Line has links to organisations that can offer help and advice about mental wellbeing.

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