Soccer

Southampton hero Claus Lundekvam opens up on suicide attempts and drug addiction

Claus Lundekvam is lucky to still be alive today.

A model professional on the pitch, the Norwegian spent 12 years at Southampton following a £350,000 move from SK Brann in 1996.

But his life soon turn took a turn for the worse when he was forced to retire in 2008 after persistent ankle problems.

After hanging up his boots, the loneliness and depression set in, as he turned to drugs and drink to get the high he was missing from playing in front of thousands of people each week.

Within a year of his 18,000 spectator testimonial, Lundekvam was struggling to cope with his addiction and was losing his family.

"I told myself that I would take a couple of years just to enjoy myself and that I could let my guard down," he told the BBC.

"I didn't have to perform every day and every weekend any more. I was getting involved in a lot of charity work but every event I went to, and was supporting, there was a lot of drinking and partying involved.

"I lost control, basically. I also had quite a strong depression. I found myself quite hopeless after quite a while. Turning to drinking and drugs was sort of an escape at the time. But when I was hooked on the drink and cocaine and pills, and everything I was using, I was lost.

"I needed to drink and to use drugs every single day. My wife at the time, and my two girls, moved back to Norway," he says.

"My then-wife expressed that she would never see me again because she thought I would drink myself to death. I bought a one-way ticket to Rio de Janeiro. Luckily, I never boarded that plane, but that would have been the end of me.

"I actually tried to take my own life twice. I was so far down that I had nothing to give any more. I was so lost, and I couldn't see a way out of it, so I just wanted to drink myself to death and disappear, because it was so difficult. The guilt and the shame, and everything around it, was also a big factor in me digging a hole for myself."

Lundekvam is now openly sharing his tragic struggles as he aims to stop other professionals heading down the same, tragic route.

"I obviously took a few wrong turns and wrong decisions after my career," he continued.

"I think, looking back, I would strongly advise players to find something meaningful to get you up in the morning. Find something, work-wise, that you enjoy.

"For me, at the time, I had everything. I had a lot of money, a wonderful family, a great house. I had a house in Norway. Boats, cars, everything. But I was depressed and I felt lonely. I felt that nobody needed me any more.

"That was the loss of the dressing room. The loss of performing every week with your team-mates. That was taken away from me and I found that very difficult."

Lundevkam is still remembered fondly on the south coast following his 12-year stint with the Saints.

"It was a childhood dream that came true. I never really thought I could survive in that league for as many years as I did," he added.

"Over 12 years professionally at that level for Southampton, and to round off my career with a testimonial, being a foreign player and club captain for many years, was something very special."

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