NORTHERN IRELAND STRIKER Kyle Lafferty has opened up about his addiction to gambling in a compelling and harrowing interview with BBC Scotland.
The 30-year-old, who joined Hearts in the summer after a disappointing three-year spell with Norwich, was fined £23,000 by the Football Association for betting offences in 2016 but he has revealed it was midway through his time with Rangers (where he played between 2008 and 2012) that an addiction started to develop.
“I didn’t have anything better to do after training than go to the bookies or sit online,” he told Tom English.
“Betting on football had been banned and, if anything, things got worse. I’d bet on horses instead. I knew absolutely nothing about horses. I still don’t have a clue. I open the app on my phone and go by the colour of the jersey or the name. If it’s a winner, it’s a winner; if it’s not, it’s not, and I move on to the next one.
It was every day on the horses and every single race. I was betting on anything; horses, dogs, virtual racing, roulette.
With the mindset I had, a grand was like a tenner.”
Lafferty, who featured prominently for Michael O’Neill’s side at Euro 2016 and whose goals were instrumental in the side qualifying for the tournament, also revealed that one gambling company shut down his account due to the extent of his gambling.
“I absolutely devoured the guy down the phone. I was effing and blinding. The guy said they had to think about my health”, Lafferty explained.
Lafferty has been in constant discussions with his club, especially coach Austin MacPhee, to try and combat his problems.
Hearts owner Ann Budge also gave a statement via the club’s website earlier today.
“Kyle took the enormously brave step of coming to the club and asking for help,” she said.
“He has earned our great respect for doing so.”
His international boss has also praised the striker’s decision to go public.
“I admire Kyle for speaking so openly and honestly about his battle with gambling,” Michael O’Neill said.
“We have talked about it at length and I have assured him that he has the full support of me, my staff and everyone at the Irish Football Association as he aims to overcome this addiction.”
You can read Lafferty’s full interview with Tom English here.
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