Swedish film casts light on Inter experiences that made Bengtsson give up football

Inter fans celebrate their 19th Serie A title outside the stadio Giuseppe Meazza

A new film is bringing back the story of Martin Bengtsson, who in a year went from Inter youth academy star to retirement in deep depression.

The Swedish midfielder, now 36, was purchased from Orebro in January 2004 by the Nerazzurri with great hopes as the next big thing in Serie A.

However, he walked away in October 2005 and never played professional football again.

A new film called Tigers is based on Bengtsson’s autobiography, but the action is moved forward two decades to include the added pressures of social media on teenage players.

However, the Swede does still blame Inter for not helping him deal with the transition, or the bullying he says occurred in the youth academy.

“I really hope this movie can create a discussion about academies,” Bengtsson told The Guardian newspaper.

“Coaches need to understand the psychology that comes with the pressure of earning a lot of money, or being close to earning a lot of money and playing in front of a lot of people.

“I had a clause in my contract saying I was supposed to go to school and learn Italian but it didn’t happen. Language is such a super‑central part of enabling you to integrate and, without it, I was that much more lost and alone. There were times when I felt completely excluded.

“Nowadays I’m not so annoyed about people not seeing what was happening to me but there are situations that happened at Inter I can still be angry about. I started to write to deal with my depression, to stay sane, to have an outlet. But they threw away my papers and said football people shouldn’t be writing. That wasn’t right.

“I became very good at hiding my emotions. That’s an important masculinity problem the movie highlights: hide your feelings if you want to be part of the group.”

Director Ronnie Sandahl insists the film should be seen as giving its main character a happy ending, because it wasn’t about winning a match or a career, but having a life.

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