Former Norwich City star Cedric Anselin says he is not ashamed to admit he has a mental illness
- Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers
Twenty years ago, Cedric Anselin was playing alongside Zinedine Zidane for Bordeaux in the UEFA Cup final against Bayern Munich.
Aged just 18, he was a young man with a bright football future.
Today the former Norwich City midfielder has a darker story to tell – one of a secret battle with depression that has cost him his marriage and diminished and haunted him for 14 years.
It is a story that almost had a tragic end when he planned a suicide bid less than a fortnight ago. It was thankfully averted when he contacted former footballer Clarke Carlisle, who helped him to change his mind.
It is also a story of hope and encouragement.
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For 39-year-old Cedric is speaking out about mental health in a bid to get others to do the same – and particularly targeting younger men, who are at the highest risk of suicide but also often feel unable to talk about their problems.
He said: 'I'm ill. For me to talk today is difficult, but if I can help anybody it is worth it. Unfortunately there's a lot of people who don't admit it. I was one of those people.
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'I lost confidence, lost my self-belief and lost my family. I am taking small steps now and I am not ashamed to admit my illness.'
Cedric, from Spixworth, is married with two sons. He is now living alone after his wife left with the children – a decision he acknowledged was the result of her falling out of love with him after years of her trying to cope with the mood swings triggered by his mental illness.
He is still on medication but will have his sons three-four nights a week when he is better.
'My wife was my rock. She looked after everything and kept my family together – now suddenly she's not there, although we are still friends and she has supported me through difficult times. I didn't know where to turn and two Mondays ago I didn't want to be in the world any more. Everything was dark and cloudy. I had battled depression for 14 years and lost my football career and the love of my life.
'I left early for work and had planned what I was going to do. But then I remember calling Darren Eadie and leaving a voicemail, then calling Clarke Carlisle. He answered and we had a long chat.
'He said I needed to surround myself with close friends. I got a GP appointment the next day and they put me on medication straightaway. Then on the Wednesday I saw the crisis team from Hellesdon Hospital. They see me every day at the moment.'
He has also seen a rapid decline in his weight, losing 15kg in recent months.
'Depression is vicious. I became selfish and tried to control people. I didn't want to go out because I was scared. I was pretending to be happy but I was grumpy and miserable with my wife and children. I stayed at home because I trusted those four walls.' Cedric said the decline began soon after he was released by Norwich City in 2001, having played a handful of matches in a couple of years. He said: 'Being a professional footballer was my dream and I achieved it. It is still difficult to accept that I didn't make the most of it. I regret my life and regret how I have been.' He added: 'You start to feel anxious and the clubs don't call. You panic and feel rejected. But you don't admit there's something wrong with you.' With a strong network of friends, including many former footballers, Cedric said he was dealing with his illness – helped by his job.
He works at Open Academy in Norwich, guiding 30 16- to 18-year-olds through BTec level three sports and fitness – a job he 'absolutely loves', adding: 'Work gives me a reason to get out of bed.'
His message to others suffering from anxiety and depression was to: 'Take that first step and admit it. Get help.'
The football family
Depression is a lonely illness, but Cedric said he had been given 'great support' from a host of former professionals footballers – mostly ex-teammates. He said: 'I'm still in contact with Shaun Carey, Erik Fugelstad, Brian McGovern, Steve Foley and Che Wilson. They've all been very supportive.
'Also Ousmane Dabo, who I played with in France. He played for Manchester City, Marseille and others. Kaba Diawara is also being very supportive.'
During his time of crisis in recent days, Cedric turned to former Norwich City winger and current Mustard TV presenter Darren Eadie for support. He has also been in regular contact with Clarke Carlisle, a former footballer and ex-chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association.
A career across countries
Cédric Anselin was born on July 24, 1977 in Lens, Pas-de-Calais, France.
A midfielder, he was rated highly and played for France under-21s.
In his early career he played for Bordeaux and Lille.
While at Bordeaux he came on as a substitute in both legs of the Uefa Cup final, which ended with Bayern Munich the 5-1 aggregate winners. Bordeaux's squad included French greats Bixente Lizarazu and Zinedine Zidane.
Anselin joined Norwich City on loan at the end of the 1998-99 season, playing seven times and scoring a goal in a 4-2 win over Oxford United.
He became a crowd favourite and did enough to convince Bruce Rioch to sign him for £250,000.
He went on to make 19 appearances for the Canaries, but could not secure a regular place in the team. Anselin was released in the summer of 2001 and headed north to play for Ross County in Scotland.
The next step was to South America, where he played for the Bolivia club Oriente Petrolero.
He returned to England, briefly playing with Cambridge United before moving into non-league football.
A brief spell at King's Lynn was followed by a move further down the league pyramid to Dereham Town late in 2007.
In the last few years he has been on the coaching staff at teams including Wroxham, Cromer and Sheringham.