- Stories: The abyss of retired athletes: "You lose your place in the world and all the ghosts appear"
- Stories: The taboo of the athlete with depression: "They are neither weirdos nor are they crazy"
Just at the time in which Spain played to get, for the second time in its history, at the end of the World Cup, there was a guy two meters and three centimeters tall driving his car from Vitoria to Madrid as if nothing. The outcome of the second extension came to see him, almost by chance, on the giant screen of a bar, but with the same passion with which one would see the adjustment letter. "I don't enjoy watching basketball," he admits. "I still like to play but I'm not interested in seeing the basketball that is played today."
The thing would be even normal if the type of two meters and three centimeters were not Santi Abad , former player of almost a dozen teams in the ACB League, including Barcelona, Baskonia and Real Madrid, 16 times international with the National Team. Eternal promise of Spanish basketball.
Surely it sounds like chrome. Santi was the star he was going to be but not in the end.
Looking at his resume, one would say that Abad's was an enviable career. League and Cup Champion. Barça, Tau, Madrid, Cáceres, Peristeri ... Obradovic, Scariolo, Aíto, Manel Comas, Lolo Sainz player ... More than 7 points per game, 3.5 rebounds. Best sixth man in the League, the four called to retire Andrés Jiménez in the National Team. The 26 points he got to Estu one afternoon. The 25 against the San Fernando Box. The night that nailed 36 Nobiles in Europe.Anyone would say he succeeded ... Not at all! Absolutely. I have been fortunate to have trained with Epi, with Andrés Jiménez, to have played in the best teams, but in the end I did not reach 10% of what my career could have been. What do you owe to basketball? Basketball ruined my life.
Let's go back to your resume for a moment. In his wikipedia profile, apart from the statistics, there is a line that says, literally: "His strong character influenced remarkably throughout his career . " That he was "a cursed player," the chronicles say.Has that legend weighed you? It was said of me that he was problematic, that he was a controversial player. What is that? What did he say what he thought? What does it mean to be controversial? Was Petrovic controversial? Is Rudy controversial? Everything was said about me and was used systematically to influence my career. All since a coach discovered that the way to squeeze my physical capacity was to increase my adrenaline, mistreat me.
In his other record, the one that does not appear anywhere as much as one insists on Google, there is a complicated childhood and an even more complicated father, a poor neighborhood of Barcelona, the pressure on a child that seemed called to be the new Fernando Martín, a meteoric rise from the EGB to the ACB.
Behind the points and the rebounds, the quarrels of Manel Comas are hidden, the coach they called sheriff not only for the mustache, the final he did not play after being the best in the semifinals, the contracts terminated from year to year, the assignments, the faults of almost everything, the eternal suspicion because -you know- Santi was a problematic guy ... Junior contracts when he was no longer junior, the void in the National Team, the silence in Madrid of Obradovic, the dismissal in Murcia, that veteran who sat down one day by his side and said: "You are much better than me but you have neither my name nor my last name."
On the other record of Santi Abad is the depression printed on his shirt as if it were the number 9.
"The first blow was 18 years," he says today. "In the 80s I was the player with the most technical and physical possibilities of Spanish basketball. I did not even go through lower categories. In three years I was already professional. Everything was very fast. Everything was demanding, without rest. I was the future of Spain , the great promise . But the situation was not like today. Then basketball was blocked by veterans, clubs and, above all, coaches. Players like me had zero chances. The level of demand was brutal, I was an uncle with character and they broke me. Today it would be called bullying or mobbing . I felt mistreated in professional sports. "
I didn't understand what was happening, if it was my fault or that of the trainers. My life was just a void, a physical void. I didn't feel like living
Abad left the Bon Pastor quarry in Barcelona and ended up at Espanyol after being discarded by Barça. Aito recovered it but in a year he was back in Montjuïc. In 91 he arrived in Baskonia and depression appeared for the first time. The sequence is more or less like this: sign for the Taugrés, the season ends as one of the best high eaves in the League, but they yield to Murcia. After two months, he is fired. Santi, the great promise, runs out of equipment and accepts an offer from Alcalá de Henares, a team that ends the season in Primera B.
"In May I see myself at home, sitting in the armchair, with 20 years and without knowing what to do. Then you just think that you are sad, that it is a bad time and you do not reason anymore. I did not understand what had happened. If it was my fault or of the trainers. Depression then shows you its ways and ways, but then my life was only a vacuum, a physical vacuum. I had no energy to have any stimulus. I totally abandoned myself. I didn't feel like eating or living. and everything happened in solitude. I didn't turn to anyone . I just wanted to play again, I contacted a former teammate and went back to compete with 10 kilos less in the Sant Cugat, in Second. "
In October 1993, with the season started, the Tau called him again. The coach is Manel Comas , a coach with whom he had already hit the junior team. "I just wanted to compete again at the first level and I did not know how to stop. I was nobody in life, I had no studies or anything and I agreed to return to Baskonia with a special contract, to the test, as if I were an inmate. They gave me 200,000 pesetas for two months and they put me in a hostel to sleep. I accepted. "Do you regret it? I regret my entire career, but it was inevitable.
That course ends him as the best sixth man in the League and plays the Cup final and the old Recopa. Renew one more season in Vitoria with one of the lowest contracts in the category. The summer of 1994 is the last discard of the Selection for the World Cup in Canada. The following summer is the last discard for the European of Athens. " I assumed that he didn't like me, that he didn't like me . The excuses were always the same, that my characteristics were not suitable for the union and sympathy of the group."
In 1995, when their numbers are better, he gives an interview to the Basque journalist Eduardo Ortiz de Arri in which he says: "I am aware that I can now be in a sweet moment and not tomorrow. For anything, everything can turn against me. I have that fear in my body and I think that until my career ends I will not be protected by anything or anyone. "
From doors to the outside everything seems to be fine, finally, for Santi Abad. The Taugrés wins the Copa del Rey and returns to play the Cup Winners Cup final. Inside the door ... "That year I begin to notice the pressure of each training and ask for help."What did you notice? I was crying home every day. And even if I scored 20 points, I went home crying the same way. One day I told myself that I couldn't do more and asked the team's traumatologist for help. With all the good faith in the world, he talked to the club and the coach found out. Two days later, he tried to filter it to the press to justify his criticism against me. "You see, Santi is crazy ..." I didn't ask for help again. If they get to publish that I was in a clinic, I would have had to go find the cemetery.
I was crying home every day. And even if I scored 20 points, I went home crying the same
The following summer, he accepted an offer from Real Madrid by Zeljko Obradovic. "I was apparently still triumphing but my mental health was getting worse. I suffered a terrible downturn in Madrid because this disease does not understand triumphs . I do not know why, but I was sinking. Perhaps because I break up with my girlfriend at the time, because I notice the distance. .. I was just depressed. I kept coming home crying after every workout, so much that I had to stop the car. I didn't feel like training but I kept training. "Did you consider leaving it? No. My only idea was to follow. I had nothing else to do. It was training or throwing me over a bridge. Did you think about committing suicide? I have come to think what would happen if I did, but I have never really thought about doing it. I didn't want to get out of bed, I had stress, anxiety, I didn't sleep, I didn't feel like living. My life was crap. I slept three or four hours, but it was a physical wonder. He was able not to sleep and the next day play like a beast. How was the sports experience in Madrid? Obradovic never counted on me because he was confronted with Mario Pesquera, who was the one who had signed me. I was a year and I went to Cáceres, where I was also a single year. How is it possible that all coaches had mania? You would be wrong about something. I don't know. Maybe I had bad luck. I was living very bad situations that ended my head. I could have touched Pepu Hernández, yes, but they touched me Manel Comas, Obradovic, Manolo Flores ... I was not trained in the Students or the Joventut, but in Espanyol. In the Bronx of Barcelona, which Manel said. I always defended my team. On weekends to escape from depression I filled my house with colleagues. I don't think anyone talks badly about me. Has anyone asked you for forgiveness for not helping you at the time? Almost nobody knows anything about this.
After Cáceres, where he played the 97th Cup final, he returned for the last time to Vitoria, already with Sergio Scariolo. He played a season and went to Breogán de Lugo, then to Greece, where he was left unpaid after a knee injury. He faded with the withdrawal but returned once again with the shirt of a newly promoted, the Wolves of Cantabria. Before leaving, he definitely played a month and a half again in Cáceres, as if he wanted to grab his teeth on a race that had been a roller coaster for years. In 2002 he retired. He was 33 years old.
Having to combine sadness with sport is horrible, a terrible effort
"When I left it I was lost, out of place. I started working at an advertising company. I had saved but I didn't have enough to live. I set up a company with some friends, I endorse them and they end up leaving me with a debt of more than 300,000 euros that I still drag Once this phase ends, I go into a very fat depression. I separate, I come to live in Vitoria to escape and I fall into deep depression. "How is it different from the previous ones? I can't even move. I can't breathe It's when I really don't want to live, when I ask for help and start taking medication. I go to the psychiatrist and start a treatment because I am in an almost palliative situation. I didn't know if I was going to die or disappear. He only slept and lost weight, slept and lost weight. So several years, until little by little I go out and then I get into a TV contest, in Survivors . Romay helps me because they were looking for an athlete and I needed the money. I asked my psychiatrist for permission to stop taking the medication and I left. I suffered hepatitis, they had to give me sneak pills on the island to sleep and I lost 27 kilos in a month and a half. Did you offer anything else on TV after that? They told me it wasn't controversial enough. Touch the balls. How are you currently? I have had outbreaks but I don't fall anymore. I have an 8 year old son and that holds me, but sadness still exists. The disease is still there, but I can talk about it without crying. Do you think that he would have suffered the same if instead of engaging in elite sport he had worked on anything else, it is that if he had not played basketball, I do not know what would have happened to me. I was born for this, I had a gift. I was doing so well ... Basketball has ruined my life but at the same time it was the only thing I knew how to do. If you look back, what do you remember as the best moment of your career? When I started, when I was a kid and I thought I was going to touch the glory. Then it was one host after another. And the worst moment? There are so many ... I have overcome many because I have spent many. Having to combine sadness with sport is horrible, it is a terrible effort. Why do you tell it now? Because I am emotionally stable and I don't want to hide what happens to me anymore. Hopefully it serves as an example because I am sure that today, in the ACB, in the Asobal, in the First Division, there are athletes with depression. Sure, sure, sure. And I can tell. Others can no longer. What do you live on today? When I left basketball I got a pension but I have an embargo from the Treasury. I worked at a dairy company but I quit. Since this summer I don't work. Is he happy today? Happy? No. Every year I demand to be happy for something, but I have no goal in life.
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