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Kevin Van Veen

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Kevin Van Veen opens up on crippling gambling addiction

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Kevin Van Veen opens up on crippling gambling addiction as Motherwell striker recalls rehab in South Africa

The Dutchman reveals how he would miss training to gamble away thousands in a casino but has since learned to control the addiction.

Kevin Van Veen would wake up in the middle of the night craving a kick. But not at a ball. He desperately needed a buzz. But not from scoring a goal.

Instead, he’d get out of bed and head straight for a casino. It was the only way to feed his addiction. Money had no value. Neither did his career or his life at that stage. Thankfully, he sought help. Suddenly, the former PSV kid, who was highly rated by coaches in Holland, found himself picking strawberries in South Africa. No money, no phone, no definitive future. Just a bed, a bathroom and a mirror. Van Veen had to look within himself to find salvation.

Eventually, with the help of others, the game he has loved from the age of six gave him it. At 31, he’s now determined to maximise every minute. Motherwell supporters who adore him want to reap the benefits of that. But most of them won’t know the journey he has been on to get to Fir Park.

As a young player at PSV Eindhoven, he was released because he was so small, his shorts wouldn’t stay up. A 27cm growth spurt left him in agony and hospitalised for eight weeks. He turned his back on football to work on building sites as a plasterer before his hunger for goals returned.

As a semi-pro in Holland, van Veen started to make a living from the game. But the more he earned, the more he gambled. And given what he’s had to go through, it’s a miracle that he’ll spearhead Motherwell’s Europa Conference League campaign which starts on Thursday night.

Ask any coach who has worked with van Veen and they will tell you he should be playing at a higher level. With his ability, how did he wash up at Northampton and Scunthorpe before turning up in the SPFL Premiership.

As MailSport found out in an exclusive and searingly honest interview, the reasons are complex. Speaking for the first time about his personal issues, van Veen said: “When I was younger, I had a lot of mental health problems and anxiety because I was battling addiction.

“When I was 18, I was allowed into the casino and would go with some friends. It started with a tenner when I wasn’t earning much. But that would quickly become £50, £100, £200. As I earned a bit more money from playing football it was £1000 and a lot more.

“I’ve been addicted ever since then. It’s inside my body and is an everyday thing. Sometimes I’d miss training. I wouldn’t turn up because that (gambling) was all I wanted.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night and jump out of bed to go to a casino – because my body needed that kick. I even went for rehab to South Africa where I had to learn about the value of money.

“I was strawberry picking and potato picking every day over there from 6am to 6pm. All I had was a plate of food. I had no salary, no phone – just a bathroom with a mirror. I had to re-appreciate the value of life and money.

“I’m still fighting it every day. It’s still there in my mind every day. But I’m trying to manage it a lot better than I did, instead of wasting it on a game that disgusts me now.”

During his time playing in England, Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance facility was a Godsend for Van Veen. Since then, he has been encouraged to speak openly about the battles that have undoubtedly prevented him from realising his full potential on the pitch.

He said: “Over the years I’ve had a lot of help. Sporting Chance in Leeds helped me massively. Every Tuesday and Thursday I’d drive there to talk in the group. I had to detox my body from the addiction. It was really bad, especially when I was on medication.

“But I’ve been clean for two and a half years now. Nobody really knows. But my psychologist has urged me to speak up.

“And over time it has worked for me. I didn’t want everyone to know but at the end of the day it’s me. It’s part of me. And it’s still a huge achievement for me to be here, playing at a good level.

“But it’s probably the reason why I’m not where I should be. If I could turn my life and career around, I would. But I can’t turn back time or change it. If you’re asking me what really held me back, it’s probably that.

“I think I’ve got the ability but my mental health and addiction has left me struggling from the age of 18. My mum, who is my biggest fan, is just proud that I’ve actually made it as a footballer. Because I could easily have become someone who had nothing and was left in the gutter.”

Addiction isn’t the only obstacle van Veen has had to overcome in his career. As a teenager no one in Holland doubted his technique.

But incredibly, having developed into a 6ft 1in striker, his SIZE threatened to curtail his career at an early stage. It forced him into a real job, where he learned that to get anything in life you have to graft.

The Dutchman, who hails from Eindhoven, said: “I grew up at PSV but was sent away for being too small. My dreams were shattered. I was a very tiny player. Honestly, I needed a belt around my shorts to keep them up.

“PSV told me that, physically, I was just too little so they didn’t want me anymore. But ability wise I was always one of the most talented.

“Even when I was young, Dutch newspapers were talking about me. That probably got in my head a bit. I believed I’d make it to the first team but it didn’t happen.

“Then I suddenly took a growth spurt of 27cm. The doctors explained to me that, because of all the training I was doing at PSV, my body didn’t have time to grow. So I went from being very small to being thin and long.

“I was in hospital for eight weeks and had massive growing pains. I was still a child and I cried a lot.

“After that I played for my uncle’s team and gave up professional football. I started a job as a plasterer, doing a lot of heavy carrying on the building site.

“At PSV I thought I’d make it so I didn’t pay attention at school. I was trouble because I thought I was too good for it.

“I regret all that now, I realise it’s the most important thing you can do. I was plastering from early morning until late at night.

“Football wise, I was just playing as an amateur. Teams wanted me but I was disillusioned by the game. I’d hit a brick wall because of my physicality so I had to concentrate on having a normal working life.

“And I had so much fun doing it. There was no pressure, no one was watching me.

“It really made me appreciate what I have now. Because you have to work hard for very little.

“That’s why I won’t take anything for granted. It has been a tough road for me.”

 

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42 minutes ago, Toxteth O'Grady said:

Gambling especially among young people has never been more of a problem, it’s leading to people taking their own lives, even a decent percentage of school kids are addicted yet I can go on Twitter and still see individuals posting tweets linking to their own sites claiming guaranteed success. I’ve worked alongside three people with gambling addictions and it’s ruined all their lives.

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On 7/17/2022 at 10:47 AM, Yorkyred said:

Gambling especially among young people has never been more of a problem, it’s leading to people taking their own lives, even a decent percentage of school kids are addicted yet I can go on Twitter and still see individuals posting tweets linking to their own sites claiming guaranteed success. I’ve worked alongside three people with gambling addictions and it’s ruined all their lives.

I was listening to Radio 4 one day and they had a statistician on and he said  every team should be 3/1 every time.  That's what the actual odds are. 

When bookies offer 1.5 or 2.0's they are ripping the piss.  The whole thing is statistically fixed so you literally cannot win, at least in the middle to long term.

I make a £1 bet every day, mainly just to research teams around the world and keep up to date on football, and this season I won the first eight, lost the next three and I'm back to exactly where I was in terms of balance.  Yep 8/3 win ratio and I'm even stevens.

It's a complete con, play for fun, sure, but never ever think you are going to actually make money. 

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On 7/17/2022 at 10:47 AM, Yorkyred said:

Gambling especially among young people has never been more of a problem, it’s leading to people taking their own lives, even a decent percentage of school kids are addicted yet I can go on Twitter and still see individuals posting tweets linking to their own sites claiming guaranteed success. I’ve worked alongside three people with gambling addictions and it’s ruined all their lives.

But does this stop football taking money from these betting firms. Not one jot , they are encouraging it.  All betting ads should be restricted more. There was a reason years back they couldn’t advertise or open a bookies near a pub . It’s addictive . Press a couple of buttons on your phone and loose a weeks wages. Where the fun in that. Media has made this all acceptable now. How can they afford the sponsorship deals and ads, by making millions from the mugs, I mean punters.  I’m off to play online puggys now.

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1 hour ago, stv said:

But does this stop football taking money from these betting firms. Not one jot , they are encouraging it.  All betting ads should be restricted more. There was a reason years back they couldn’t advertise or open a bookies near a pub . It’s addictive . Press a couple of buttons on your phone and loose a weeks wages. Where the fun in that. Media has made this all acceptable now. How can they afford the sponsorship deals and ads, by making millions from the mugs, I mean punters.  I’m off to play online puggys now.

As much as the temptation is there for people to shout about "something needing done" the truth is, there has to be an element of personal responsibility. If someone is addicted to gambling and throws their wages away, they need to seek help. It's not on some unknown force to ban or restrict anything.

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I think there are 2 different things in play. First of all, there is no doubt that there is a mental health problem with addiction of all kinds and the health service is ill-equipped to deal with it.

The second thing is that betting firms and online gambling companies have been intentionally targeting problem gamblers and vulnerable punters. And that's not just the traditional bookies and casinos. In the software world many companies are developing gaming apps that are designed with all the psychological tricks to keep you playing for another hit and fork out on high priced "treasure" packs etc. in order to progress to a higher level.

If the motivation was there, plenty could be done to address the health service and the aggressive advertising issues.. However, as always, those in the position to do it are too busy being wined, dined and entertained by the same company's execs and lobbyists.

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The finger tip ease now of betting has been the downfall of many.I gamble myself and been pretty successful at it not life changing  i was up end of last season 750ish I am single no kids,I don't drink or smoke so it's my wee guilty pleasure.

I do think they are needing to raise the gambling age as young folk addiction levels are through the roof. Many time in front of me at the games they have been sitting on a betting app and be lucky if they have watched 5-10 mins of game they are at.

Yeah bookmakers have limit tools,self exclusions but it's the individual to say they have a problem and need help make those steps like with any addiction.

 

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On ‎7‎/‎19‎/‎2022 at 6:25 PM, David said:

As much as the temptation is there for people to shout about "something needing done" the truth is, there has to be an element of personal responsibility. If someone is addicted to gambling and throws their wages away, they need to seek help. It's not on some unknown force to ban or restrict anything.

Same as being addicted to drugs ?

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19 minutes ago, stv said:

Same as being addicted to drugs ?

Or alcohol.

As with any addiction, yes something does need done to help with it but ultimately the person who has the addiction needs to be able to control it. And that is the most difficult part because that takes an enormous amount of strength to first of all recognise the problem, seek help and then begin to deal with it. 
 

With regards to gambling, online betting apps have got to be one of the worst things out there because of the ease in which someone can basically squander money by just going onto their phone. 

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16 hours ago, stv said:

Same as being addicted to drugs ?

Similar, but not quite the same.

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According to the Daily Express he's about to sign a new deal that will take him up to 2024.

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1 hour ago, Kat said:

According to the Daily Express he's about to sign a new deal that will take him up to 2024.

I think that’s good. While he can be a bit hot and cold I’ll put some of that down to the fact that on several occasions we have played him when not fully fit and only played cause we lack a decent back up for him. 

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Should get a few games out of him then after he sits out his suspensions for all of 2023.

(Just joking - would be delighted if we can tie him down for a new contract).

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2 hours ago, Kat said:

According to the Daily Express he's about to sign a new deal that will take him up to 2024.

I’ll wait until it’s confirmed by the club but if true then it’ll be great news for us.

Edit: Just now confirmed by club Twitter.

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Quite pleased at this announcement, but he's not a player I'd build a long / medium term strikeforce around. Very talented, but he's too inconsistent in various ways.

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27 minutes ago, Kmcalpin said:

Quite pleased at this announcement, but he's not a player I'd build a long / medium term strikeforce around. Very talented, but he's too inconsistent in various ways.

I see where you’re coming from however it’s only a one year extension and having an experienced forward on board will hopefully benefit us. He is inconsistent but he also clearly has ability and for that alone he is better than anything else we have  got in the striker department. 
 

We need to sign at least one striker before the window closes, that was the case before this news and nothing has changed but I don’t see this extension as being anything other than a positive for us. 

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49 minutes ago, MJC_mkII said:

We need to sign at least one striker before the window closes, that was the case before this news and nothing has changed but I don’t see this extension as being anything other than a positive for us. 

completely agree which speaks volumes for Efford/Shields - they should be moved on. 

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2 hours ago, Kmcalpin said:

Quite pleased at this announcement, but he's not a player I'd build a long / medium term strikeforce around. Very talented, but he's too inconsistent in various ways.

Yep agree with this.  I like KVV but too selfish at times and workrate questionable at times.  I feel fact he is guaranteed a start when fit can sometimes work against us as he hasn't got anyone on the bench threatening to take his place. However when fit and in the mood and avoiding stupid bookings he is definitely an asset

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KVV is certainly the best striker at the club and one of the few players we have  with real technical ability. Its also true that he has been played without being fully fit too often than is good for him / the team. But I still find him a frustrating figure to watch. A lot of the time he appears disinterested and he is very greedy when it comes to his use of the ball. I know all strikers are, but he almost never passes to a team mate when he is anywhere near the box regardless of whether that team mate is in a much better position. I guess thats why he is with us and not Ajax! Glad he has extended. But it would be good to have someone who could genuinely challenge him for a first team start. That way we might get a bit more consistency out of him.

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1 hour ago, wellsince75 said:

completely agree which speaks volumes for Efford/Shields - they should be moved on. 

I don't think either of them will be moved on this summer unless we get a decent cash offer, but I definitely think they need to make it happen this season if it's going to work for them at all.

Last season saw both Shields and Efford score 3 goals each, which isn't good enough. They're both still only 24 & 25 years old respectively, so they can still kick on, but I don't hold out much hope for them.

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I'm happy to have him here longer,there no reason why he can't hit double figures again this season.we really need to be signing another striker to either play beside him or be at a level where it's going to push him to keep performances levels up and stay away from needless suspensions,we don't need someone that will just come in anytime he's unavailable to play and then sit on the bench the rest of the time.shields and efford could be used to partner van veen or another but I wouldn't fancy either leading the line on there own this season.i think we might need to wait until nearer the end of the window for a striker to come in,which is fine if we can get the right one in.

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2 hours ago, wellsince75 said:

completely agree which speaks volumes for Efford/Shields - they should be moved on. 

Efford and Shields are (currently) not good enough. Both should be moved on and replaced with a proven goalscorer to play alongside (or challenge) KVV. If we keep one, it should be Shields, given that he is a 3-year development project.

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1 hour ago, joewarkfanclub said:

KVV is certainly the best striker at the club and one of the few players we have  with real technical ability. Its also true that he has been played without being fully fit too often than is good for him / the team. But I still find him a frustrating figure to watch. A lot of the time he appears disinterested and he is very greedy when it comes to his use of the ball. I know all strikers are, but he almost never passes to a team mate when he is anywhere near the box regardless of whether that team mate is in a much better position. I guess thats why he is with us and not Ajax! Glad he has extended. But it would be good to have someone who could genuinely challenge him for a first team start. That way we might get a bit more consistency out of him.

Have you seen what those team mates do with the ball?

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