Former Barcelona and Spain wonderkid Bojan Krkic has revealed how he felt dizzy “every day for five months” in the build-up to Euro 2008.
In an interview with Marca as part of its preparations for Euro 2016, Bojan explained how his breakthrough 2007-08 season for Barca at just 17 years took its toll on him, so much so that he was on medication every day and was wracked with “constant tension over the possibility of falling unconscious” in matches.
“It was the 2007-08 season. I spent preseason with the first team then went to the Under-17 World Cup. I went back to Barca and upon my return, the Coach played me in the Champions League, I scored my first goal … Everything was going very quickly,” the Stoke City forward began.
“Until January, I took the situation well. One day I went to the opening of a friend’s gym, and just after the ceremony, everyone got up and went towards me. It was a small place and I felt very overwhelmed. I was wearing a sweater and a jacket and started getting very hot.
“I ran to the bathroom to take my clothes off. I began to feel a very strong and constant dizziness. From that moment, the situation was already changing until the match against Osasuna, when I began to feel dizzy again.
“Before the game, I got a little dizzy in the hotel. The Coach gave his line-up and started me. Something had to be done, so on the bus I told my doctor that I felt a little poorly. He gave me a caffeine pill and I had a good game. I got home, my blood pressure dropped and I lay in bed, but suddenly I began to tremble and had seizures.
“It was a time for a lot of nervousness on the part of us three [referring to him and his parents]. They took me to hospital, where I spent the night and was reassured. From that moment, it all started and I became dizzy every day.
“It was a pretty strong anxiety attack and something I couldn’t control. My body reached a point of maximum tension. I took some pills and they soothed me. [The doctors] think that from that day I was dizzy 24 hours a day. There wasn’t a second day when I wasn’t [dizzy], although sometimes less so because of the medication.
“I was a very sensitive person, things affected me a lot and I lived in the very idealised world of football. Things changed from the impact of playing in a big team, being surrounded by top player and scoring goals being more important than anything else. The pressure came over me. You think you have everything under control, you don’t.
“It was constant, although there were times when I felt okay. I took medication constantly, especially when going to training and for matches. It was a very difficult situation [on his decision to opt out of Euro 2008], but at the same time it was very clear. It was the limit.
“I went to games with a constant tension over the possibility of falling unconscious. Luis [Aragones] called me the day before naming the squad. I travelled with my mother to Barcelona to, because I was going to my people many days to get away from everything.
“He said that they intended to call me up. I said I obviously wanted to go. Being called up by the Coach of Spain for a European Championship was something incredible for a 17-year-old, but I said no: ’I just took a pill, I’ve come here to train, but I can’t [go to the Euros]. I’m really at my limit.
“’I’m afraid to go to the national team and risk something happening to me during the trip or when I’m around many people. Furthermore I don’t see myself with strength to face this situation.’
“It hurt a lot, any young lad would love to go to a European Championship, but I couldn’t. He told me what he thought and I spoke to Puyi [Carlos Puyol].
“The headlines that appeared in the Press was that the national team called up Bojan, but he said ‘no’. This hurt me a lot because people began to think that was what it was. We spoke about how we could turn it around, so I decided to give an interview to TV3, in which I said I needed a break after an intense year.
“That weekend [I trained with Spain], we went to Murcia and the fans began to insult me and tell me everything [they felt]. They shouted things at me. It was the beginning of a very complicated situation.
“I finished the season and stopped. I went on holiday and disappeared from Barcelona. I isolated myself, first in my village and then in Formentera, at a time when there was no-one around.
“I disconnected from everything and took a necessary breath. My medication started going down and in mid-June I stopped it altogether. I remember asking my mother, ‘Mum, will this sickness ever stop?’. But she had no answer. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was sure I’d get much stronger.
“I’ll never regret that decision. It was very bad and I was at my limit. You don’t know what it’s like to be dizzy for 24 hours, every day for five months. Not one day did I did get up and feel fine. I had to take Trankimazin to be more focused and calm.
“At the time, I couldn’t imagine what the national team, with new teammates and the pressure of a Euro [Championship] would be like. I wasn’t prepared to deal with it.”