Dele Alli reveals he was sexually abused at 6

Estimated read time 5 min read

Everton and England midfielder Dele Alli has revealed his troubled past in an emotional interview with Garry Nevile on The Overlap podcast.

In the interview, Alli revealed that he suffered sexual abuse by a friend of his mother while still just six. He then was sent to Africa where he stayed with his father for a moment before returning to England. Alli also revealed he started smoking at an early age and even started dealing drugs before he turned 10.

“At six, I was molested by my mum’s friend who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic.”

“I was sent to Africa to learn discipline. Then I was sent back. Seven, I started smoking. Eight I started dealing drugs, selling drugs. An older person told me they wouldn’t stop a kid so I’d ride around with my football and then underneath I’d have the drugs.

According to him, he was once hung off a bridge by a man. He then said it was at age 12 that he was adopted by the Hickford family. Though the Hickford family never officially adopted him, he had moved in with the parents of one of his teammates at MK Dons.

“Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate. At 12, I was adopted. And from then, I was adopted by an amazing family, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’ve done for me,” adding, “If God created people, it was them. They are amazing and have helped me a lot.”

It is the right time to tell my story

As if his troubled childhood is not enough, the 27-year-old midfielder revealed that he also had mental issues recently. He said he got addicted to “sleeping tablets”, something he believes many people are suffering from daily.

“I got addicted to sleeping tablets and it’s probably not a problem only I have. I think it’s something that’s going around more than people realise in football.”

Alli said he is telling his story now because he feels now is the right time to do so. He said when he returned prematurely from his loan deal in Besiktas and realized he had to do surgery, he was affected mentally.

“Now is probably the right time to tell people. It’s tough to talk about it as it’s quite recent and something I’ve hid for a long time and I’m scared to talk about. When I came back from Turkey, I came back and found out I needed an operation.

“I was in a bad place mentally. I decided to go to a modern rehab facility that deals with addiction and mental health and trauma. I felt it was time for me. You can’t be told to go there, you have to make the decision yourself.

Dele Alli ended his loan spell at Besiktas in order to undergo a knee surgery.
Dele Alli Photo: Getty Images

“I was in a bad cycle. I was relying on things that were doing me harm. I was waking up every day, winning the fight going into training every day smiling, willing to show I was happy”. Alli added that “Inside I was losing the battle and it was time to change. When I was told I needed surgery I could feel the feelings I had when the cycle began.”

The midfielder praised his club side Everton for the support as he said they supported him fully during that period.

“Everton were amazing and supported me. I will be grateful to them forever. For them to be so honest and understanding I couldn’t ask for anything more during a time I was making the biggest decision of my life – doing something I was scared to do. I’m happy I’ve done it.”

Dele Alli delves deeper into sleeping tablets addiction

While giving more details about his sleeping tablets addiction, he noted that it started with a doctor’s prescription but he later found out ways to get it as much as he wanted. He said he often would take it multiple times in a day and though teams give it to players to help them sleep, he was taking it to escape for the reality.

“Before when I’d stop, I’d still sometimes have the urge, but I’d maintain [being] sober for a period of time and then there’d always be a time where something would happen, I’d get the feelings back and I’d want to escape. I was taking a lot. I don’t want to talk about numbers, but it was definitely way too much,” he emphasized.

“And there were some scary moments. The teams give you them for a reason[to sleep]. I wasn’t taking them to sleep. I’d take them throughout the day…sometimes from 11 am if I had the day off. I would never take them if I was playing, but I’d start early if I had the day off, just to escape from reality.”

Alli said “It started with a doctor giving them to me and then it turned into more than that. When you want something, you’ll find a way. At the start, it was one to sleep…for most people, that’s fine. You can handle that…that’s all you need. But for me, it was fixing something else that I didn’t know I could fix.”

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