Ronald Reng’s biography about Robert Enke gives an excellent account of how Enke fought his loosing battle against his depressions. But, has the world of German football changed since his death?
Ronald Reng has been a German football journalist of for many years. His specialty: goalkeepers. So, it is no wonder
that Reng can give an excellent description of Robert Enke; the goalkeeper. Enke’s special technique in one on one situations, his excellent abilities as a shot stopper on the line and so forth. Furthermore, Reng was also a friend of Enke. The two of them have shared many moments together and, as Reng writes in the book, the two of them had intended to write the book about Robert Enke’s live together. Reng had to write the book on his own, but still manages to give an accurate picture of the happiest and saddest hours of the life of Robert Enke. His happiest moments at Benfica, the darkness in his mind when he was stationed in Istanbul, and the sudden return of his depression when all seemingly was well in Hannover. Reng manages to draw a picture of thoughtful, funny and polite human being. A good father, and man who tried to be the best husband he could be.
What happened after the shock?
Enke took his life on november 10th, 2009. His death shocked a whole country, and football fans all around the world. After his widow told the public that Enke suffered from depressions, football Germany promised to take a look at itself, to take a look at the internal culture in the clubs and in the national team. But, have they? Is it safe for a footballer to publicly announce that he suffers from this disease? Have any football clubs taken some steps to make sure that this issue finally can come out of the closet, and can be debated in public?
Statistically speaking one out of six persons will have at some point of their life’s have the need for psychological attention. Some may just need the attention of shrink, others might have to take the step and spent some time in the hospital for treatment. If those stats are true for professional footballers, this means that between 60 or 80 footballers at some point of their life need psychological treatment in the Bundesliga alone. It is hard to believe that all those 60 or 80 cases in need for psychological treatment occur only after or before those professionals careers. Knowing that, it must certainly be in the interest of everybody that some light is shed on this issue.
One brave person has done so. Former St. Pauli defender, Andreas Biermann, publicly announced that he had tried to commit suicide, and that he had undergone treatment for his condition. The defender told the press that Robert Enke’s suicide opened his eyes, and that he decided to seek treatment after Enke’s death.
Biermann spent a total of 58 days away from his club and his team mates. Having been the first German footballer who took the brave step to go public is little consolation what followed after Biermann returned to the scene. Biermann told the German weekly Der Stern:
“I told all of the players about my condition before the first training session after my return. It was disappointing that nobody in the team contacted me to talk so more about my condition.”
Furthermore Biermann stated: “If any footballers out there are suffering from depressions I’ll advise them to keep that for themselves.” Biermann hasn’t been able to prove himself as a footballer after he underwent treatment. His contract at St. Pauli wasn’t renewed, and no other club has been willing to sign Biermann.
Robert Enke has put a human face on the issue of depression. However, the sad thing is that he couldn’t do so while he was alive. Those who try to do so, like Biermann, are excluded from the world of professional football. It saddens me that all those promises that were made after Enke’s death just turned out to be a lot of hot air.
I will publish part 2 of this article on Thursday.