‘I gamble to shut out the world,’ reveals Chopra
IPSWICH Town star striker Michael Chopra has today spoken with moving honesty to the EADT and Evening Star about the gambling addiction that was threatening to wreck his life. In part one of the exclusive interview he explains what drives him to bet.
IPSWICH Town yesterday revealed that star striker Michael Chopra had recently spent three weeks undergoing treatment for his long-standing gambling addiction.
And today the 27-year-old – a �1million signing from Cardiff this summer – has opened his heart exclusively to EADT and Evening Star sports reporter Stuart Watson about tackling his demons.
The proven goalscorer has spoken publicly about his addiction on a number of previous occasions, the problem dating back to his days at Sunderland five years ago.
However he admits that, despite previous stints in clinics, he has never really been “100 per cent committed” to curing himself.
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But after his problem rapidly spiralled out of control in the last year – boredom and a lack of footballing “buzz” two of the main factors – he decided recently that enough was enough.
Just over 24 hours after scoring twice in the 3-1 home win over Brighton at the start of the month, the Newcastle-born forward checked himself into the Hampshire-based Sporting Chance Clinic.
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Initially only meant to be a one-week spell, Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans, chief executive Simon Clegg and manager Paul Jewell agreed he could stay in the quiet country location for 21 days – only leaving to play in the Championship matches against Cardiff, Portsmouth and Crystal Palace.
And having returned to training at the start of this week feeling like a new man, supportive boss Jewell – who didn’t know the full extent of the striker’s problems when signing him – has stated he will “definitely start” in tomorrow’s game at Millwall.
Below we publish part one of his interview, in which Chopra explains what drives him to gamble, how he bets and what caused a decline in his addiction over the past year:
CHOPRA: WHY I’M ADDICTED
“You want to replicate the buzz of playing and scoring in everyday life. I’m the sort of person whose mind goes ten to a dozen all the time, but I’d go to a betting shop and just be focused. Once I stepped inside there it felt like I was in my own world.
“I wouldn’t answer my phone, I wouldn’t be bothered about anybody. Once I’m in the bookies it is just me alone with nothing to think about.
“Being a footballer you’ve got a lot of free time. Some of the lads go out and play golf – I gambled.
“I wouldn’t say I’m much of a drinker. I know there have been reports in the past about me heavy drinking, but drinks not been the problem – it’s the gambling.”
CHOPRA: HOW I BET
“It was all types of gambling really. The bookmakers shut at nine, ten o’clock but then you’ve got the internet that’s available to you all night. You can do it on your phone too.
“Whatever I could bet on I would. It reached breaking point and I realised I’ve got to do something about it.
“I got to a stage where I’d be waking up during the night betting on football matches in Brazil and Argentina – it was no good for me. I’d get little sleep and then come to training the next day not in the right frame of mind.”
CHOPRA: MY RECENT DECLINE
“I think it started getting worse in my last year at Cardiff really. I kept all the disappointment of not playing inside myself instead of opening up.
“I was gambling but not really getting the excitement that other people get out of it. I would win a big amount of money but I wouldn’t be happy with that – I wanted more.
“Because I’m a good player, well at least I think I am, I’d be able to get through it. In games I’d just about be able to do enough too and make sure the manager picked me for the next one.
“I was starting to lose money that I couldn’t really afford. It was just getting on top of me.”