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Bafana Bafana and Burnley striker Lyle Foster sidelined indefinitely over mental health struggles

Bafana Bafana and Burnley striker Lyle Foster sidelined indefinitely over mental health struggles
Lyle Foster of Burnley during a Premier League match against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in Luton on 3 October 2023. (Photo: Marc Atkins / Getty Images)

Struggling Premier League side Burnley will be without one of their most important players indefinitely. The striker has been given time off by the club to restore his mental well-being.

South African striker Lyle Foster has been ruled out of competitive soccer indefinitely as he deals with mental health issues, his English Premier League club Burnley confirmed on Thursday.

“On behalf of Lyle Foster and his family, they have asked us to share with you an update on Lyle’s illness. Recently, Lyle let us know that he continues to live with issues around his mental well-being and has reached out for help,” Burnley said.

The club said Foster is in the care of specialists who are giving him the support and care he needs to help him back to full health.

“With the love and support of his family and everyone at Burnley Football Club we will do all we can to provide everything he needs to get better,” the club added.

“We ask for your understanding and to respect Lyle’s privacy around this matter. We will not be making any more comment until further notice.”

Lyle Foster

Lyle Foster of South Africa during the international friendly against DR Congo at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on 12 September 2023. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

Journeyman

The 23-year-old had previously said he has had some mental health battles since moving to Europe from his home country. Foster departed Orlando Pirates in 2019, just a few months shy of his 19th birthday, and joined European club Monaco.

Since then he has not found much stability. From Monaco he was sent to Belgium on loan, joining Cercle Brugge. Once that loan expired he left Monaco for good and signed for Portuguese outfit Vitória de Guimarães before the 2020/21 season.

We were very fortunate that Lyle had been very open with us and we were able to act as soon as he showed signs of how severe it was for him.

Injuries blighted his time in Portugal and he was never truly able to settle down. Then he was off on loan again the season after that. He returned to the Belgian top-flight to play for Westerlo.

After his impressive maiden season with Westerlo, the Belgian team secured his services long-term in June 2022. Or so they thought. Half a season into his permanent move to Belgium, and his best season in terms of goals scored (eight), Vincent Kompany-coached Burnley came calling for his services.

Former Manchester City and Belgium defensive star Kompany had observed the former Monaco goal-getter a few times while coaching Anderlecht in the Belgian premier division.

He roped in the South African striker to bolster his team’s charge to regain promotion to the English Premier League, after they were relegated last season – a mission they accomplished.

Burnley manager Vincent Kompany at a Premier League match against Crystal Palace at Turf Moor in Burnley on 4 November 2023. (Photo: Sebastian Frej / MB Media / Getty Images)

All their support

Since his arrival in the Premier League, to join the elite company of players such as Benni McCarthy, Lucas Radebe and Steven Pienaar in having represented South African in the English top-flight, Foster has been firing.

In eight games he has three goals and two assists. For his efforts early in the season Foster was recently rewarded with a contract extension. The fresh five-year agreement was inked at the tail-end of October.

Losing one of their biggest goal threats while firmly rooted in the bottom three of the Premier League table is a massive blow to Burnley’s hopes of not being relegated so soon after their return to the top division.

Lyle Foster

Lyle Foster of Burnley on the ball during the FA Cup fourth-round replay match against Ipswitch Town at Turf Moor in Burnley on 7 February 2023. (Photo: Richard Sellers / Getty Images)

However, Burnley manager Kompany said Foster has the team’s full support on his journey to recovery.   

“As a club, we’ve very quickly and naturally made the decision to fully support him and his family. We’re obviously offering him access to all the expertise and clinical support that he needs,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby and a new era of mental health vulnerability

“We are wishing him a speedy recovery and to be in a better place by the time he is ready to come back to us. We were very fortunate that Lyle had been very open with us and we were able to act as soon as he showed signs of how severe it was for him,” Kompany continued.

“Straight away, the entire support team in the club mobilised and made sure he could focus on his own recovery… In moments like this you have to put the human first.”

Speaking openly about one’s mental struggles has generally been shunned in the sports community. A taboo subject. However, recently, stars such as former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka have been open about the internal struggles they have faced in spite of their success. DM

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