When Gaza news spooked 'Gazza'

London: Former England footballer Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne has revealed there was a time he was once struggling so much with mental health issues he became convinced British television reports about the situation in the Gaza Strip were a reference to his own condition. Gascoigne made the revelation ahead of the premiere in London on Monday of a new documentary concerning his turbulent life.

Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne

One of the most talented midfielders of his generation, Gascoigne played for England at the 1990 World Cup. His tears when yellow-carded during the team's semi-final with Germany -- a booking that meant he would be ruled out of the final, although as England eventually lost on a penalty shoot-out to the Germans he was not alone in missing out on the showpiece match -- became an indelible image of the tournament. Gascoigne originally made his name in football with native north-east side Newcastle before joining London club Tottenham Hotspur.

He joined Italian giants Lazio from Spurs for £8.5 million in 1992 but injuries blighted his career and after he retired form football the now 48-year-old Gascoigne found himself confronting a series of mental health, drug and alcohol problems. Gascoigne was even 'sectioned' -- detained under mental health legislation -- by his family when he became convinced his phone had been hacked, but last month he was one of a number of British celebrities awarded legal damages in London's High Court for phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers.

"I had a great career," Gascoigne said Monday. "There's been parts since I stopped playing that I've really enjoyed, and then I get knocked down again for no reason. "Sometimes it's got to the stage now where I hate Saturday nights, because jack shit knows what's coming in the papers on Sunday.

"I tell you what was the worst one, the Gaza Strip. You know the term the Gaza Strip, remember that? That was murder for me. I'd be sitting there having a shave and that, and the news would come on 'And the Gazza...' and I'd be like 'What's that?!' and I realised it was the Gaza Strip. I couldn't wait for that to end."

The Gaza Strip, on the southern border of Israel, has been the scene of violent confrontations between Israeli forces and Gaza militants, with the two sides engaged in a deadly 50-day war last year. Israeli warplanes struck Gaza early Sunday for the second time in three days after cross-border rocket fire by an Islamic extremist group which is locked in a power struggle with Hamas, the de facto power in the strip.

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