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Roman Bürki: “My Father Saved My Career”

Dortmund’s Swiss Goalkeeper has faced mental health struggles that almost ended his career before it began.

Borussia Dortmund Team Bus Bomb Attack Trial Photo by Friedemann V ogel - Pool/Getty Images

Roman Bürki’s tenure at Borussia Dortmund has been quite tumultuous. Despite his frequently above-average play in goal, the Swiss Keeper has faced substantial criticism from the BVB fanbase for his inconsistency and tendency to commit grave errors. A common criticism that I hear (anecdotally) is that he doesn’t have the self-confidence and composure to be an elite keeper for a Bundesliga club.

In all fairness, he has been dealt a heavy hand. In his three seasons with Borussia Dortmund, he’s played behind shaky and constantly evolving defenses and tactical systems, all while trying to fill the shoes of BVB-legend Roman Weidenfeller. Bürki’s also been open about the trauma he suffered during the bus bombing, which seemed to affect him more than it did many of his other teammates.

Earlier this week, Bürki addressed some of these issues in an interview with Eurosport. As it turns out, his struggles with self-confidence and mental health are nothing new. When he was just a teenager, while getting ready to attend tryouts for BSC Young Boys, he almost folded before they even started, telling his father that he refused to participate. He had already been rejected by SC Thun, and the idea of failing again was almost enough to prevent him from giving it another go.

According to Bürki, if his father hadn’t refused to take him home, he never would have tried out. If he hadn’t done so, he obviously never would have made the Young Boys academy, and his career could have turned out quite differently (or not at all.) Since then, Bürki has maintained a relationship with mental health coaches, who have helped him deal with the various stressors he’s experienced throughout his career. In the interview, Bürki encouraged other footballers to do the same, decrying the taboo that surrounds mental health.

“I started when I was 16, 17. I thought it would not hurt, it’s not a taboo at all for me, and every little thing that helps should be taken as a player I’ve needed the mental coach from an early age, and that’s how it is.

While he’s obviously not a perfect keeper, Bürki has been far better than most people give him credit for, and will be carrying the mantle as Dortmund’s #1 for the foreseeable future. He should do whatever needs to be done to keep himself mentally healthy and ready to perform, and it’s nice to see he’s encouraging other players to do the same.