End of the England dream: sports psychologist Mustafa’s antidote for the post-World Cup blues

End of the England dream: sports psychologist Mustafa’s antidote for the post-World Cup blues

Old Elizabethan Dr Mustafa Sarkar has some sound expert advice for anyone feeling down after the end of the World Cup – and especially after the England defeats in the semi-final and in Saturday’s third-place play-off.

Mustafa (OE 1997–2004) has a global reputation as a sports psychologist and has won a string of awards for his work.

A Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, he was interviewed by the Nottingham Post about how to cope with the negative feelings surrounding England’s departure following the growing sense of elation that followed them as they reached the semi-finals.

Such feelings, he told the newspaper, are entirely natural: “Often the short-term impact will be having a negative mood with feelings of disappointment and frustration. There has been a loss – of momentum, of identity, and of unity – the country coming together.

“Some people might be able to see that England over-performed compared to expectations, while others might see it as a lost opportunity because of the way the draw opened up. There’s an element of personality in this, in terms of levels of optimism and pessimism and how people view situations generally.

“The negative moods will probably be short-lived, in a similar way to how the players themselves will feel…After a period of time – maybe a week or two – there will be more objective reflection. And I think the majority of people will be optimistic about the future. There will be stages of denial and then acceptance, and then moving on and seeing the positives in the situation.”

Mustafa had particular advice for those who fall into “thinking traps” and find themselves unable to stop dwelling on England’s missed opportunities – the scoring chances missed by Kane, whether Croatia’s semi-final equaliser should have been ruled out for a dangerously high foot, or Harry Maguire heading wide from a good position in Saturday’s match against Belgium.

“For example,” he says, “if you think that ‘England are never going to be in this position again’, that’s quite an illogical thought. The team is quite young and there’s a good chance of them being in that situation in 2022.”

“Reflect back, and think of three or four positives that came out of the World Cup for England – both the team, and the nation. For example, reaching the first semi-final in 28 years, or winning a penalty shoot-out at the World Cup for the first time. This can help to reframe how you think about these potentially negative events.”