Former Sydney FC defender Sebastian Ryall opens up on mental health battle


In the book, Ryall said he and the girl had merely kissed and exchanged phone numbers before discovering she was actually only 13 years old. Months later, he was charged by police with engaging in a sex act with a minor, and because of the length of time since the incident, Ryall said from a security camera at a nearby RSL that would have exonerated him had been overwritten.

“That meant there was no way to prove I just kissed her,” he wrote. “I couldn’t believe it. I was in a state of shock. I was petrified, scared, and worried about what happened. I hoped no one in the football world would find out.”

That day ruined me and it took two suicide attempts before I eventually got over it.

Sebastian Ryall on Australia Day, 2012

When it emerged publicly, Ryall was stood down from playing for his club and for the Young Socceroos by Football Federation Australia for bringing the game into disrepute.

The charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence but the mud would stick for the remainder of Ryall’s career.

Sebastian Ryall celebrates after scoring a goal against Brisbane Roar in November 2017.Credit:AAP

Ryall, who switched to Sydney FC in 2009, was the subject of relentless abuse from supporters of other A-League clubs and particularly Melbourne Victory.

He scored a dramatic late equaliser against Victory at AAMI Park on Australia Day, 2012 but revealed how chants from the crowd destroyed him internally, and made him feel like walking off the pitch and quitting the game during the warm-up.

“Do they know how I was deceived by this dumb young girl, who’s ruined my life? Nope. Do they care? Nope,” Ryall wrote. “There is a reason why in the justice system the person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, because that’s fair. What I experienced on that day wasn’t fair.

“And to make it worse I had already been deemed innocent of such a terrible crime. I had never hurt anyone in my life, but after that day I was out to hurt myself in any way I could. I f—ing hated that those lowlife people thought I was something I wasn’t.

“That day ruined me and it took two suicide attempts before I eventually got over it.”

Ryall details his descent into alcohol and drug abuse, admitting there were at least 30 times when he thought his career would have been over had drug testers shown up at the club.

He said that during a week off training between the 2015 A-League grand final and friendlies against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in Sydney, he “took drugs every single day of that week, not just dabbling in it, but partying hard, snorting lines of cocaine at pubs, clubs, friends’ houses, everywhere.”

Sebastian Ryall says he had more than a bottle of wine the night before Sydney FC faced Harry Kane's Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly in 2015.

Sebastian Ryall says he had more than a bottle of wine the night before Sydney FC faced Harry Kane’s Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly in 2015.Credit:Brendan Esposito

“The night before the [Tottenham] game I had more than a bottle of wine, smoked many cigarettes and slept on my mate’s couch,” Ryall wrote. “When I woke up I ate a bacon and egg roll and again smoked a heap of cigarettes throughout the day leading up to the game.

“We lost the game 1-0. I had a great game, clearing the ball off the line and playing really well — I had fans messaging me saying I had Harry Kane in my pocket! I even got his signed jersey.”

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Ryall also explained how he struggled with personality differences between himself and former Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold, who is now in charge of the Socceroos.

Ryall delivered a blistering assessment of Arnold, describing him as a “fantastic coach” with the right intent but that he showed “no care for my wellbeing” at times, said players would privately laugh at him because of his “over the top” aggression in team talks, and suggested that much of the club’s success during his reign “falls to chance.”

“People don’t talk about it because he’s the national team coach and no player wants to ruin their chances of representing their country,” he wrote.

Ryall, now 30, wrote that he would refuse to do any interviews with media to draw attention to himself because the book was written to assist other people. True to his word, Ryall declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.

Most of the book comprises Ryall’s personal meditations on philosophy and psychology, advice on how to overcome panic and social anxiety, as well as how to confront suicidal thoughts.

“This book relates to me but was created to help others. I have let go of all attachments to negative thoughts so dwelling in the past isn’t what I’m about,” he wrote.

“To free the mind is a gift and that is my gift to give.

“If you are reading this and can identify then I beg you please, please just don’t do it. Things change and you will too. Whatever you are going through, no matter how bad it is, you have to accept you can’t change the past. It absolutely sucks, and I get it. There may be nothing you can ever do to change it, but you need to accept that things in this life aren’t fair.

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