Tuesday 07 September 2021, 15:00

#ReachOut: Walter Zenga urges people to talk and listen

  • Walter Zenga has joined FIFA's #ReachOut campaign

  • He encourages us to show understanding in a changing world

  • “Having someone there who listens to you helps a lot.”

Walter Zenga kept goal for Italy at two FIFA World Cups™ and was known as ‘Spiderman’ for his sensational shot-stopping reflexes. He set a record at Italy 1990 for the longest period without conceding: 517 minutes, a record he still holds today. However, the decorated former goalkeeper and experienced coach says having the right ‘team’ in your personal life is the key to success. In contributing to #ReachOut, FIFA’s campaign to raise awareness of mental health conditions, Zenga urges us to support one another as we continue to adapt to lifestyle changes during the COVID-19 pandemic – and not to be too afraid to listen.

“Having someone there who listens to you, and who maybe knows how to say the right words to you, helps a lot,” Zenga explained. “Each of us needs the skill to manage situations mentally, and, above all, to always be able to be resilient in order to maintain a high level of focus and performance, and as far as sport is concerned, to achieve consistent results. It’s always a question of attitude.” Zenga is acutely aware of the impact of the pandemic in terms of social isolation, and the adverse effects upon people’s mental well-being – particularly the younger generations. “We have practically conditioned our children to stay at home on tablets and computers,” he said. “If, as adults, we found it tough [recently] and were afraid of social contact, imagine how it was for children.” The former Inter Milan custodian also encourages all of us to show sensitivity and patience if someone reaches out for help. “Having someone you can confide in can gradually help you to solve a problem, without panicking, or having to worry about not [being able to find] a solution. I would say this: listen to them, get them talking. “We have little propensity for listening because so many things have entered our world recently, which make us talk less than before. Now it’s easier to send a message, look at social media, or to hold a mobile phone in your hand, and this has taken away from the relationship that we once had when we’d meet up and talk. If your friend has a problem, go out for a walk, sit somewhere, have a coffee, listen, be with them.”