Chelsea: Christian Pulisic speaks to N’Golo Kante about mental health problems and chess matches


Christian Pulisic likes to make the right moves, even when it comes to playing against N’Golo Kante.

It’s a challenge few of his Chelsea teammates would advocate, but the key to his confidence lies in the tattoo on his left forearm: a chess piece.

“Chess is a new passion that I’ve rekindled all the time in closed rooms,” says Pulisic. “I would say N’Golo and I are the first two.

Christian Pulisic has risen to a challenge that few would face in N’Golo Kante

“We always have good fights. He was way stronger than me when I started, always # 1, but my goal is to beat him so I had to work hard.

“I always played him on the plane against Olivier Giroud and we talked about it. It’s an amazing game that can help you with a lot of things, like solving problems or spotting different patterns. I’m not saying that it correlates directly with being a better footballer, but it’s certainly better than staring at a screen and playing. “

On closer inspection, the tattoo bears the name “Mate”. It is Pulisic’s middle name and that of his beloved late grandfather.

“I had it done after the Champions League final. The queen doesn’t mean much, although she’s a cool piece – versatile, powerful, and can move anywhere.

The American says he is usually involved in tense <a class=chess games with his Chelsea teammate” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

The American says he is usually involved in tense chess games with his Chelsea teammate

Christian Pulisic has a tattoo of the chess piece on his arm

The board game helps with problem solving and strategy, he finds

Pulisic says the board game lets him take a new perspective and is better than video games

“My grandfather taught me to play when I was younger. I was nowhere near his level and I wish we had played more but I’m glad we shared that. It’s a memory that is dear to my heart. That’s why the tattoo is so special to me. “

When Mate died last December, it was a dark time for the American, who lived alone in London.

This introspection, which already tended to over-analyze his performance, went deeper after Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as coach and Pulisic was increasingly on the bench.

Grappling with the changes in his life challenged his mental health and prompted Pulisic to dig deep and seek help.

“It took me a while to realize that it felt strong to say something,” says Pulisic. “I thought I was too tough to need help. When it’s all on you, it can really feel like a lot. Opening up is a difficult thing for many people, just as it is for me. I reached out to a therapist and this is not something anyone should ever be ashamed of.

Pulisic tends to rethink his game while his grandfather's death preceded a dark period in his life

Pulisic tends to rethink his game while his grandfather’s death preceded a dark period in his life

The American thought he was

The American thought he was “too tough” to get help but sought mental health support

“It was kind of a build-up like it was for a lot of people,” he recalls. “Not only to live alone, but everything is locked. Covid times brought a lot of changes and things happened in my life.

“I was lucky that the people at Chelsea and the national team steered me in the right direction.”

Catharsis comes from what he calls a “clear head” through Wimbledon and Richmond Park – “a beautiful part of London” – and a family support system in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

His autistic brother Chase was one of his inspirations.

“Chase taught me to just enjoy life. The way I see him, he just likes to do the simple things. He doesn’t care about the world and doesn’t let anyone’s judgment influence his judgment. He inspires me every day. I wish I could be like this sometimes; I think it’s amazing how self-confident he is. ‘

Pulisic says Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel

Pulisic says Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is “intense” and wants to impress the manager

For a £ 58 million new signing, Champions League winner and US captain, the vulnerability shown by the 22-year-old Pulisic is surprising. It is a reminder that mental health can be challenging to anyone, or it is perhaps a reference to Tuchel’s coaching practices.

The TV viewers could hear firsthand the blunt messages that Tuchel barks on the sidelines. Pulisic played for the German in Dortmund and knows him well.

“It was always intense, very competitive, not much has changed. You can hear him more without the noise of the crowd, but he doesn’t mean it. ‘

That brought some consolation last season when Pulisic was eliminated from the second leg of the European semi-finals after outstanding performances against Atletico, Porto and Real Madrid. After that, he expressed his frustration.

‘It was very tough. I felt at my best and it was extremely hard to be back on the bench. When you’re in shape, you feel good and want to keep going.

“The competition here is tough. We want to win titles. It’s about keeping your head in the right place so you can still make a big impact on one occasion. ‘

While Pulisic hopes to achieve something on the field, he is donating $ 500,000 to help develop playing fields for youth at the club where he grew up

While Pulisic hopes to achieve something on the field, he is donating $ 500,000 to help develop playing fields for youth at the club where he grew up

While Pulisic is determined to seize this opportunity this week, the season kicks off against the backdrop of a social change campaign he is driving to his home in the United States.

At the height of Covid in Pennsylvania, Pulisic donated meals to medical workers and poured $ 500,000 into a youth field development program at the club where he grew up. “It seemed easy,” says Pulisic.

Likewise, he’s working with Puma to increase participation in the sport – by building camps and bringing football to the underprivileged in the United States. The occasion will be marked by Puma releasing a personalized football boot for tonight’s UEFA Super Cup game against Villarreal – with a chess piece on its heel.

So how would he feel if his project spawned the next Captain of America? “Old,” he laughs. “No, that is the absolute dream. It would be incredible to have an impact on someone’s career. I want the game to grow. I’m just very passionate about the fact that anyone who loves the game can play. I would like that to be my legacy and give people this chance. ‘

Puma has teamed up with shoe customizer Silni to produce a special pair of ULTRA 1.3s that Pulisic will debut in the Supercup finals tonight.


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