Portela opens up on mental health struggle

Portela made history by becoming the first Brazilian to register victory on the PDC World Championship stage; he opened up about his mental health battle following a tumultuous few months away from the oche

Last Updated: 17/12/20 3:43pm

Diogo Portela has been forced to contend with a multitude of personal issues throughout 2020
Diogo Portela has been forced to contend with a multitude of personal issues throughout 2020

Diogo Portela bowed out of the World Darts Championship on Wednesday evening, although he did so having certainly made his mark.

‘The Braziliant’ recorded his first victory on the Alexandra Palace stage at the fourth attempt on Tuesday’s opening night – courtesy of a straight-sets success over the veteran Steve Beaton.

It was a landmark moment for South American darts, yet given the adversity Portela has overcome throughout a tumultuous 2020, it was even more significant on a personal level.

The 32-year-old broke down in tears following his victory over ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ and revealed the struggles in his personal life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Brazilian has seen his daughter fight illness, both he and his wife have battled depression, whilst he has also mourned the loss of two family members.

“I’ve been to some really dark places this year. What I have been through this year I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” reflected Portela following Tuesday’s action.

“I was thinking about quitting darts and even killing myself.

“To overcome that and win on the stage after just two or three months, what can I say? This was a win for myself to prove how strong I am.”

Speaking to Sky Sports’ Michael Bridge ahead of his second-round clash against Premier League champion Glen Durrant, Portela opened up in more depth about his ordeal.

“I had the birth of my daughter. My daughter was three weeks old, in the hospital. Just seeing my daughter in that condition, I thought she could die.

“With the lockdown, the hospital didn’t let both of the parents be in the room because of social distancing, and I just had to wait for everything at my place.

“I was really worried about my daughter and my wife, and I lost two family members as well in the Covid. I couldn’t go to Brazil to say goodbye for any of them.

“I think it hit me. I think I was under too much pressure. It was just after the Government opened up a little bit in the summer, so I travelled for one tournament and I was by myself.

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“I came back at 9pm in the evening, driving and I fell asleep there and I nearly crashed the car, but at that point, I just didn’t care. I was just like: ‘You know what, it was better off’.”

However, Portela paid tribute to the Professional Darts Players Association, who organised counselling sessions for him via the Sporting Chance charity, founded by former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams MBE.

“I called Alan Warriner from the PDPA and I said: ‘Mate, I can’t play darts anymore. I am going to quit,” he continued.

“He was like: ‘Listen, don’t worry, we are here for you. I’m going to give a call to Sporting Chance.’

“That was when things started to get better for me. I really took things out of my chest and I really started believing in myself again.

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Portela couldn’t hold back the tears after sealing a straight-sets victory over Steve Beaton at Alexandra Palace
Portela couldn’t hold back the tears after sealing a straight-sets victory over Steve Beaton at Alexandra Palace

“I had even stopped playing darts. I wasn’t practising anymore. I needed to look after my daughter, but then the PDC invited me to play the tournament so I had to find time to practice again.”

Portela’s story is remarkable. Originally an Algebra teacher, he made the move to the UK two years ago in a bid to pursue his darting dreams.

He rose to prominence after appearing on Sky One’s gameshow ‘One Hundred and Eighty’, where he scooped £16,000 with the help of nine-time major winner James Wade.

‘The Braziliant’ is yet to claim a PDC Tour Card following a series of near misses at Qualifying School, but his triumph against former world champion Beaton is testament to his mental fortitude.

However, Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle also heaped praise on the PDPA, for the support they’ve shown to Portela – the first Brazilian to register a win in the sport’s showpiece event.

The Brazilian was beaten 3-0 by Premier League champion Glen Durrant in Wednesday's second round
The Brazilian was beaten 3-0 by Premier League champion Glen Durrant in Wednesday’s second round

“The PDPA have to be commended here because Diogo was having mental stress with all that was going on and he looked to them to sort out some counselling for him,” said Mardle.

“The Professional Darts Players Association sorted him out a counsellor and he’s been seeing him for the last months, so they have to be thanked.

“I’ve been their harshest critic over the years, but hats off to them for doing that.”

Portela was unable to create more history as he succumbed to three-time BDO world champion Durrant in straight sets on Wednesday, having wired one set dart at tops in the third.

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Wayne Mardle praised the Professional Darts Players Association for supporting Portela with counselling
Wayne Mardle praised the Professional Darts Players Association for supporting Portela with counselling

Nevertheless, having endured the toughest period of his life, the affable Samba star had words of advice for others who are experiencing similar mental turmoil.

“Talk. Just as soon as you talk, you get it off your chest. Find some specialist or your best friend and just say to him: ‘Listen, I don’t want any advice, I just want to get it out of my chest. Just listen to me’.

“That was the best thing that happened really. I wish I had done this two or three months before.”

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Source : Sky Sports