A recent swathe of tabloid stories have emerged about how former England captain Wayne Rooney struggled with gambling addiction during his days at Manchester United.
Rooney had accumulated a debt of £700,000 ($1.3 million) by the age of 20, admitting he was sucked in by early betting successes and blamed boredom and unlimited telephone gambling for the habit. However, he has since managed to quit gambling altogether.
I was a young lad who’d just come into a lot of money. For an away game with Manchester United you stay in a hotel – and with England you’re in a hotel for seven to ten days. You get bored and do things to fill the time. At that time gambling was one of them. It was easy to place bets by phone. It didn’t feel like real money. It wasn't like I had to go into a bookies and put bets where there are limits,” Rooney said about his problems,
These comments came after the 34-year-old came under fire for wearing the number 32 shirt at Derby as part of an association with the club’s gambling sponsor.
This is clearly not the first case of a football player who developed a gambling problem. Gambling is widespread in the world of football. Huge sums of money at a young age and boredom mean footballers are vulnerable to gambling addiction. It has even been suggested that bookmakers target footballers, knowing that they're flush with cash.
Here are a few footballers who got addicted to the habit of gambling, which cost them big time.
#1 Michael Chopra
The former Newcastle United, Cardiff City and Sunderland striker shed light on the high stakes gambling culture in top-flight football and revealed he started gambling when he first played for Newcastle.
Players would gamble on the bus and I got involved. We would take thousands of pounds onto the bus, anything up to £30,000 ($53.900). It might change hands playing cards on the bus. It was part of team bonding. We were playing for real cash, if you were playing for £30,000 you would have it with you at the time. I have probably lost about £2 million ($3.59 million),” said Michael Chopra
Chopra’s problem was so acute that he would borrow money to feed his gambling addiction. The damage done to Chopra's family has been devastating. His father had to sell their house to pay of his son’s debts.
The 35-year-old now works for Only4Stars Players & Match Agency based in Amsterdam as a sports agent and broker.