Football NewsDele Alli’s Powerful Childhood Confession Stuns Football World.
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Aged six, I was molested. At eight, I was dealing drugs. At 11, I was hung off a bridge. That was my childhood: DELE ALLI’s confession which has stunned football.

Early on, Dele Alli spoke rarely, as Tottenham and England tried to protect a player viewed as a generational talent. But when he did, whether it was in a mixed zone, at Tottenham’s Enfield HQ or England’s base in Burton, one couldn’t help but sense Alli’s insecurities.

Here was a footballer with the world at his feet. He was the English football’s emerging golden boy. The rest of Europe was taking notice. Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, fielded calls from Real Madrid and Paris Saint- Germain as the continent’s elite manoeuvred to sign him.

On the pitch, Alli was expressive and confident. He was an artist with the ball at his feet but one with the street-fighting instincts of a boxer who won’t quit.

Yet his demeanour away from games did not match his on-pitch persona.

He was quiet and timid to the point of struggling to look people in the eye as he spoke to them; not rude, just introverted. He was always warm and friendly and his shyness was endearing.

Tales of Alli’s partying and other vices started sweeping through football. The life and soul one night, leading Mauricio Pochettino’s running drills the next morning. He hid his problems well.

His off-pitch identity makes sense now. Playing football provided Alli with an escape, because away from the sport he was broken by the impact of an upbringing of suffering.

‘(My childhood is) something I haven’t really spoken about that much, to be honest”, he said.

‘There were a few incidents that could give you kind of a brief understanding. So, at six, I was molested by my mum’s friend, who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic”.

‘I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back. At seven, I started smoking. Eight I started dealing drugs. An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight”.

‘Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a man from the next estate. Twelve, I was adopted by an amazing family. I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’ve done for me.’

It is almost impossible to compute. We can all sympathise, but no one can truly empathise with such distress.

It is a nightmare beyond all imagination. And for 45 minutes, Alli tearfully bared his soul to his former England coach Gary Neville on his YouTube show The Overlap.

In the past, the Hickfords, Alli’s adopted family, tried to get him to open up but with little success. Tottenham, particularly Pochettino, tried too. Given the gut-wrenching details of his past, it is no wonder he found it difficult to speak freely.

‘Mauricio Pochettino was the best manager, I couldn’t have asked for a better manager,’ Alli said.

‘It wasn’t like a footballer and manager relationship. It was deeper than that-it was tough for me when he left. Because, when you get a new manager… it was hard for me to let anyone in at that point and to be open. I felt like everything was just so fake.’

Alli name-checked Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Eric Dier and Ben Davies as those who expressed concern for him during his time at Tottenham. They are still concerned today. Kane was among those who offered their support on social media yesterday as the football community rallied around him.

And, hopefully, the airing of the heartbreaking interview with Neville will accelerate the healing process. The outpouring of emotion suggests those in the game are desperate for Alli to recover. If he can get anywhere close to being the player he was, he still has so much to offer.

His stint at an American rehab clinic should equip him with the tools to overcome the lingering scars of his past and the battles that lie ahead, but certainly it will take time.

‘They taught me in rehab that I’m not allowed to say I was a bad kid. But I got in trouble a lot with the police,’ Alli said. ‘I grew up without any rules. My mum drank a lot and I don’t blame her at all for what happened.

‘Going (to rehab) really helped me understand her and the things she was going through. It was all she knew.

‘Even when she let me go and I got adopted, she knew and I knew that it was what was needed to even have a chance of living the life I wanted. It was only going one way if I stayed there.

‘My blood dad lived in Africa — I got sent to him. I was meant to stay there for a year. It was horrible. I didn’t want to be there at all.

‘Nothing against where I was, but just going from what I was living in, because we had no money — mum had no money. It was just a big culture change, and I didn’t want to be there, so I’d be a little bit naughtier and then after six months I got sent back.’ Beyond the sadness I can’t help but feel a sense of optimism. Alli is recovering from hip surgery and hopes to play a role for Sean Dyche at Everton this season.

‘I’m proud of who I am today and don’t blame anyone,’ Alli added. ‘I thank a lot of people for the tough times they created for me because that made me a tougher person. That made me braver, stronger and it allowed me to overcome challenges that if they were just sprung on me, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to deal with.

‘The main thing for me is I want to prove myself because I know how good I can be as a player and as a person.

‘It’s important for me that this battle against myself, I will win, and I prove to myself I was right about all these things.

‘Me and the manager (Dyche) have had good conversations, not so much about football at this point because obviously I’m still injured, but about where I’m at. For someone that didn’t really know me, for this to be thrown on him and to be so understanding… we had a good conversation and he was supportive.

‘Right now, it’s just about getting back on the pitch and showing him what I can do. I’m feeling good in that sense.

‘Probably another few weeks (recovering from injury) and then I’ll get back playing and enjoying football. That is what I want to do. So, I’m ready for a big season and I’m more prepared to deal with any challenge that comes with it.’

Alli appears to be on his way to overcoming the biggest challenge he will ever face.