Continuing my thoughts about Robert Enke… The words of Theo Zwanziger at Enke’s funeral are still ringing in my ears: why on earth did Zwanziger bring up the issue of homosexual footballers at Enke’s memorial service?
Germany was grieving the death of Robert Enke. A man who wasn’t known for creating a lot of noise around him, like
Jens Lehmann or Oliver Kahn. A keeper’s keeper, as Robert Reng points out. Probably on his way to the World Cup in South Africa, he had committed suicide. DFB-president Theo Zwanziger had the hard task of trying to find the right words at Robert Enke’s memorial service in the AWD-arena. Zwanziger pointed out that German football had to do some soul searching, and had to ask itself some tough questions. Zwanziger thought that it was appropriate to bring up the issue of homosexuality in professional football.
The culture in and around the stadiums
The DFB-president had in recent years been a great ally of gay fan clubs, and according to gay football fans, and has been miles ahead and more tolerant then his predecessors. That still begs the question if it was right to bring up this issue at the memorial service in the AWD-arena? Mario Gomez had a couple of weeks earlier said in an interview that gay footballers had to come out of the closet, in order to feel better about themselves. On the anniversary of Robert Enke’s death Gomez’s words were brought up again by the media. Germany’s sports journalist had to this point done very little to ask tough questions, or even report, on this issue.
When it comes to the issue of homosexuality the fan culture in and around German stadiums hasn’t gotten to the 21 century, yet. It is still appropriate to use hateful slurs about gays to insult the referee or the players of the opposition. Christoph Daum once compared homosexuality to pedophilia(he later apologized for this statement). Being gay is still seen as being weak in the macho culture of football. On that note, Zwanziger was right to bring up the issue, because having depressions is also seen as weakness in the world of professional football. Not being able to seek professional help was maybe partly responsible for Enke committing suicide.
A nice out
I don’t think that this is question of if a gay footballer comes out of the closet in Germany, but rather when a footballer decides to come out of the closet. How the public will react is still an unknown. I do think that Germany’s press should do more to examine the fan culture around the clubs. If a openly gay man ever will be able to play football in Germany’s top flight is dependent on how the fans, and the clubs will react.
Robert Enke’s death shouldn’t be the one time of the year when Germany’s media discusses the possibility of gays playing football in the Bundesliga. Mentioning this very important issue at Robert Enke’s funeral, with hindsight, was probably the wrong time to do so. The media has now their “one time of the year” when they have to report on the issue. Afterwards the issue is largely ignored by the media, but when challenged the media will probably say: We did report on this on the anniversary of Robert Enke’s death. For me this issue deserves more attention, and giving the media a nice out when challenged on why they largely have ignored the issue wasn’t a good thing.
What do you think? Did Zwanziger do the right thing by bringing up the issue of gay footballers at Robert Enke’s memorial service? Leave a comment below.