FC Barcelona: The former Barcelona psychologist: “The players of the ‘Dream Team’ came to see me secretly”

La clinical psychologist Inma Puig was on payroll in the Barcelona from 2003 to 2018, but in the 90s he already began to treat Barça players externally during the etapa del ‘Dream Team’ and explain that they did it to hidden so that the technical body or the press would not find out.

This is revealed in this interview with EFE by the professional who decades later he helped Andrs Iniesta to overcome your depression and who today continues to work with several elite athletes. In addition, he has been working for eight years with the restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, with three Michelin stars.

He signed for Bara as a psychologist in 2003. At that time, a figure like hers was not very common in a sports club.
Upon arrival they asked me where I would start working and were surprised by my answer.
What was it?
I told them to start working for the technical corps.
Because they are the weakest link in the chain. If the team does not work, neither the board of directors resign nor they fire the players. Instead, yes to the technical corps.
What makes a team work?
The difference is in the little things, in the details. There are studies that show that 50% of the things that happen when we work as a team are seen, talked about and can be changed. But there are also 50% of things that are not seen, are not spoken and cannot be changed. And this 50% of things that are not normally seen are what make the difference between a winning team and another that does not.
How do you work?
The most important thing is to understand people. When something happens to a person, you are seeing the symptom, and if you only work on the symptom every time they are in the same situation again, they will return. The symptom is very welcome because if you follow it, it leads you to the cause and if you work on the cause, the symptom disappears.
Before entering Bara internally, I already worked in the 90s with some players from the ‘Dream Team’ externally.
In sport there has always been someone who realizes that something is wrong and goes in search of what he needs. But since psychology was so frowned upon, they came to see me secretly. They said that “the master (Johan Cruyff) cannot find out”, and above all that “the press cannot find out.” The road traveled since the players of the ‘Dream Team’ came secretly until a player like Andrs Iniesta made public the depression he had suffered.
I imagine that Iniesta’s gesture was a great advance to break the taboo …
It was normalizing a stigmatized situation. When you have an internal discomfort, you are sad or you do not understand things that happen to you, it is normal to go to the psychologist, in the same way that nobody hides when they go to the dentist. But we have a cultural problem that starts from the premise that feelings should not be manifested in public. And this has been carried over from generation to generation by families. The proof is the cliché “dirty laundry is washed at home”. Explaining these things publicly was seen as a sign of weakness, when it is a sign of sensitivity. And only the sensitive can enjoy life, the insensitive cannot, perhaps they will not suffer, but they are like furniture!
High-level athletes tend to hide their inner part a lot. Does this affect them negatively on an emotional level?
Of course, because then it seems that they must have an external demonstration with the public and the press and an internal one, and this sometimes causes a split that is not comfortable. There is nothing more tiring than trying to be someone you are not.
Do the main psychological problems of athletes have to do with their profession or personal issues?
With personal issues. Although in addition they have the difficulty of managing the fame and envy of the people. In this life, humans aspire to two things: to feel loved and to have someone to love. And athletes can have prestige and be admired by many people, but not loved by who they want or feel used as a product. Nor is it taken into account what it means for an athlete to change country to go to do their work elsewhere.
What do they experience?
They are undergoing an emigration. They leave everything they know for something they don’t know what to be. An emigration causes a state of mind equivalent to a loss. That is why it is necessary to make a duel to be able to adapt. And the level of demand that is placed on a player to do just as well from day one elsewhere is something that he cannot give.
Then there is the case of the Rafa Nadal, Marc Mrquez, Fernando Alonso … who are in a different place every week.
The first thing they do if they have financial possibilities is surround themselves with a group of people who are always the same. It is their fixed world and it is necessary so that they do not end up upset. 30 years ago I asked the top ATP and WTA finishers if they had any mana or routine, which helps you feel in a familiar place, related to constantly changing countries. There was one in which practically everyone agreed: they always showered in the same shower. Even if there were 25 showers, if the only one that was occupied was ‘yours’, they were expected.
You came to Bara in 2003, just like Ronaldinho. Can a player change the mood of a club?
This is an attempt to find an explanation for an obvious situation, but usually the truth likes to be hidden. Rather, the ground was already fertilized for that person to feel good enough to take charge of collecting the spirit of what was sown.
Why did you stop working at the Bara in 2018?
A professional career is made up of stages and mine at the club had now come to an end. You have to always be honest with yourself and when you are not comfortable because you cannot do your job as you think you should, the best thing is not to continue.
Will you be willing to return to the Barça club?
In 2003 I accepted to be the head of psychology because the proposal was serious, rigorous, very respectful of psychology and the importance of human relations in a club was given to them. If at any time this is the case again, I will have no problem putting my experience at the service of the club.
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