Dennis Bergkamp last night admitted he was thinking of seeking psychiatric help to conquer his fear of flying. The problem has become so acute he said he would rather miss European and World Cup matches for Arsenal and the Netherlands than fly to them.
Bergkamp was speaking in Cardiff, where he is with the Dutch squad for tonight's World Cup qualifier with Wales. To get there Bergkamp drove to the Netherlands to join the team's training camp, then drove back to Cardiff while the team flew. All that and he is not even playing - a hamstring injury having ruled him out.
He did, however, have plenty of time for reflection and, yesterday, he spoke publicly for the first time about his phobia.
"I've got this problem and I have to live with it. I can't do anything about it, it is a psychological thing and I can't explain it. I have not flown on a plane for two years," he said.
"The Dutch FA has been sympathetic, so have have Arsenal, so far." Bergkamp admitted if Arsenal had been drawn away in Moscow in the Uefa Cup, a prohibitive journey by car, he would not have gone. The Dutch FA, mindful of a forthcoming World Cup match in Turkey, has now asked him to try to deal with the problem.
"I am considering psychiatric help," admitted the pounds 7m striker. "I can't fly. I just freeze. I get panicky. It starts the day before, when I can't sleep.''
Bergkamp's phobia was exacerbated by a scare during the 1994 World Cup when the team plane was delayed after a Dutch journalist joked about having a bomb in his bag. He was jailed.
There was also a air crash in Surinam a few years ago which killed several members of the Dutch youth team. They included the younger brother of John Veldman, who was in the Euro 96 squad. There is moral support at Highbury, though. Paul Merson is scared of flying - and has said that one of the hardest things about giving up alcohol is having to fly sober.
Jordi's wait, page 26
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies