Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli admits he was ‘obliged to accept’ a seven-month ban for betting but ‘can’t wait’ to return to action and hopes to be involved in the final Serie A game of the season.

Fagioli was suspended for seven months following a betting scandal in October, plus five months of public appearances and therapy for gambling addiction and helping others to avoid a similar fate.

Today, Tuesday, February 27, 2024, Fagioli made one of those mandatory public appearances in Turin. It was a meeting with psychologists and students during which the Juventus midfielder opened up about the addiction he had been treating.

“Playing football would have helped me. To stay far from the pitch was a punishment I accepted, but that made everything more difficult,” he said as quoted by Calciomercato.com.

“I was obliged to accept it; otherwise, I would have never returned. I can’t wait to play again. The ban ends on May 19. On May 25, I should be able to play the last game of the season. The Euros are a dream.”

Fagioli, 23, had played six Serie A games in 2023-24 before receiving a ban until May 19, 2024. His compatriot Sandro Tonali was also suspended for gambling on football but will return to action in August 2024. Fagioli has continued training with Juventus first team following his ban.

“I am feeling much better now. Last year, I had the most difficult moment in my life, but with Paolo’s help, I am improving. My family and friends make me feel well. I do sports,” he said.

“I started [gambling] when I was 16, it was like a game, but it slowly became a disease. I started sports betting when I was in Juventus’ youth sector.

“Before losing control, I liked to gamble. I was looking for dopamine without knowing it. Then I realised it was a disease, but it took too long to seek help. Luckily I did it in May. I couldn’t sleep at night. I spent so much time on the phone, with calls and messages. I asked for help because I had hit rock bottom.

“In the beginning, you think you know more, but then you realise that being a footballer gives no advantage. I don’t know why I started. Maybe because I was feeling lonely and I was far from home.”

What did convince him to seek help?

“I was constantly irritable. The only relief was a game because I didn’t train well so I wasn’t a footballer who gave his all. I spent 10 or 12 hours on the phone. I felt rage and shame when all those things came out on social media, but then I lived a moment of peace.

“Now I really want to return to the pitch. I no longer gamble, I spend three or four hours on the phone. My relationship with the family and with my friends had changed. I felt like I was losing time. But I realised I was on a good path when I started appreciating the time spent with them.

“The club and my teammates are helping me. I miss the dressing room before games, but for the rest is almost like nothing has changed. After the first two weeks, I started focusing on the team, but it was hard not to be involved in matches.

“I didn’t receive insults in the streets or at the stadium, and I didn’t expect it. I continue living my life with serenity,” he added.

“It may sound like a cliche, but when I was 16, I thought I could control myself, and I didn’t believe those who spoke about a disease.”

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