Category Archives: german national team

The Bundesliga Show – The DFB-Elf & Matchday 3 Preview

A short but sweet Bundesliga Show this week. Jon Hartley and Matt Hermann wrap up what happened in Germany’s World Cup qualifiers and look ahead to the matchday 3 in the league.

Enjoy the show!

The Bundesliga Show Episode 70 – Matchday 2 and the International Break

Back for another packed Bundesliga Show is Matt Hermann and Jon Hartley. In this weeks episode, all the best and the worst from matchday 2, and ask the question ‘which teams are and aren’t looking forward to the international break?’.

Also in the show, a chat about the up-coming matches for the German national team…and as always Terry Duffelen round up all the action from the 2.Bundesliga

Enjoy the show!

United: Euro 1996

Football Coming Home?

Ahead of their impending battle with Italy, and in the final instalment of his three-part series,  Kyle Barber turns attention towards Euro 1996, and yet more firsts for a now unified German side that had waited 16 years to once again be considered the best in Europe………..

Throughout the annuls of the European Championships, victories for German nations have been intertwined with ‘firsts’; both for the country, and the tournament itself (both negative and positive). 1996 was to prove no different.

Four years earlier, the 1992 edition of the Championships witnessed Germany competing as a unified nation for the first time in a major tournament, and doing so as one of just eight teams. This time around, that number was doubled, with teams split across four groups. Seeded for the draw as a result of their historic success and global ranking, the Germans had also topped their qualification group, and thus saw themselves paired with the Czech Republic, Italy, and Russia in Group C.

The squad as a whole adhered more to the perceived quintessential German stereotype of efficiency and pragmatism than their predecessors merited, with the flair and creativity of wingers Thomas Häβler and Mehmet Scholl being overshadowed by the dogmatic displays of Steffen Freund and Andreas Möller. Yet Coach, Berti Vogts, engineered a blend of both the prosaic and more exuberant to good effect. With five goals scored, and none conceded during the Group phase (courtesy of an ill-tempered 2-0 win over the Czechs – Christian Ziege, 26’ and Möller, 32’; a 3-0 defeat of the Russians – Matthias Sammer, 56’, and Jürgen Klinsmann, 77’, 90’; and a dour 0-0 encounter with the Italians), there was certainly a somewhat miserly air to the side led by the indefatigable Klinsmann. And while the on-field action of the second game had Germany again going about their business in a methodical, calm manner it was off the field that global attention was unfortunately focused; as an IRA bomb rocked the centre of Manchester less than 24 hours before the match between Russia and Germany – causing some £700m worth of damage, and injuring over 200 people. It is, to date, the only terrorist incident at a European Championships.

Group C

Team

P

W

D

L

GF GA Pts
Germany

3

2

1

0

5

0

7

Czech Republic

3

1

1

1

5

6

4

Italy

3

1

1

1

3

3

4

Russia

3

0

1

2

4

8

1

With passage to the knockout phase secured, Germany were next to face the surprise package of the tournament, in Croatia. Having brought the early stages to life with their effusive, fast-paced defeat of defending Champions Denmark – recall that goal by Davor Suker that helped send the Danes home – it would prove a stern trial for the Nationalmannschäft.

Playing for the fourth consecutive time in front of a capacity Old Trafford crowd, it would be the Quarter-Final stage that a new German hero would take his strides towards securing his place in the DFB record books. Any player asked to fill the position of Centre-Back-cum-Defensive Midfielder ‘libero’ within the German eleven has the unenviable comparison with the legendary Franz Beckenbauer invariably thrust upon them. Such a daunting moniker was thus bestowed on the square shoulders of Matthias Sammer when he was asked to do just that.

Having seen their early advantage (a 20’ penalty, converted by Klinsmann) levelled out by the imposing Suker a matter of minutes after the break. Ultimately, the difference would prove to be evoked by two incidents, separated by a few seconds. In the 54’ minute, Igor Stimac saw red – figuratively and literally – and just five minutes later a cool, placed finish from Sammer turned their numerical advantage into one reflected on the scoresheet. Sammer himself echoed the collected, matter-of-fact nature embodied by the German machine: “there was a pass from [Markus] Babbel, then a header, and I just put it inside the far post. Overall we had calmness [and] knew we were physically strong”. Having previously made 23 appearances for East Germany, Sammer became the first real integration from the East into the unified team. Robbed of greater participation four years earlier by a plethora of injuries, his was certainly a testing road to travel. Yet, four years later he would be the veritable linchpin for both club and country – coming off the bench to save an injury-ravaged team, with his coronation being cemented when he was awarded the Ballon d’Or.

With the likes of Sammer, Klinsmann and Andreas Köpke leading on the pitch, and Berti Vogts at the helm off it, the side found themselves orchestrated by a quartet who had recent experience of pulling on the national shirt, and who understood what unification meant for the country – echoed through the eleven who now did the same – Vogts himself enthused: “we can dominate World football [with unity, and] owe it to our children to do all we can to reach that aim”.

And so to the infamous semi-final match-up with England. So much has been written and spoken about the game, and to reprise too much would seem trivial. An Alan Shearer header with barely 3’ on the watch sent the vast majority of the 76,000-strong Wembley crowd into raptures, but Stefan Kuntz equalised 15’ later with a well-taken effort. Chances came and went – with Darren Anderton hitting the woodwork, and Kuntz having a second chalked off as a result of a push. Penalties loomed.

Ten players successfully converted before Gareth Southgate would ensure a lucrative contract with Pizza Hut, leaving (as is often forgotten) Möller with the chance to convert the winning spotkick; a task to which he duly obliged.

Moller, suspended for the Final, drags his team through

Final

And on to the climax where, once again, the Germans would reprise their opening encounter and, once again, it would be the Czechs standing between them and history.

73,611 supporters packed Wembley’s hallowed stands, as Vogts opted to make four changes to the starting eleven that had begun the tournament; in came Babbel, Thomas Strunz, Scholl and Klinsmann, for Stefan Reuter, Jürgen Kohler, Möller and Fredi Bobic. For the Czechs, coach Dusan Uhrin made just two alterations from that first match. Sadly, the final failed to really capture the imagination, as a largely attritional attitude overtook both sides. Patrik Berger finally opened the scoring after 59’ from a penalty conceded by Sammer (“I never touched him!” Sammer maintains to this day), before Oliver Bierhoff – replacing Scholl on 69’ – scored to level.

It came as no surprise to anyone watching that the match progressed to extra-time. Yet that very turn of events would yield presence to a history itself. With just five minutes of the first period gone, Oliver Bierhoff’s tame effort somehow found its way through the grasp of Petr Kouba in the Czech goal, and the only ‘golden goal’ in tournament history was secure the trophy for the Germans.

Sammer once more remained the very definition of calm, both at the time, and on reflection: “it was great for Oliver…he was a typical [English] centre-forward: not the best technically…but he deserved it so much. We all gained from it, but he deserved it”.

As Jürgen Klinsmann drew his side up the famed steps, prising the Henri Delaunay trophy from the Queen, before holding it towards the heavens, it seemed to most that Vogts’ wish would be fulfilled, and another period of dominance loomed large. Few, at that time, would have believed that (at least) 16 years would go by without ‘Deutschland’ being once more etched onto continental silverware. But in an age where the national side now boasts players born since unification, the prescience and homage to that mantra could, finally, be served.

The Last German Hands to Lift National Silverware

Revenge: Euro 1980

Euro 1980

In the second of his three-part series,  Kyle Barber moves on to 1980, and retribution for a German side dethroned four years earlier………..

In 1976, reigning World and European Champions West Germany suffered a shock defeat in the final of Euro 1976; losing out 5-3 on penalties to a committed Czechoslovakia side, in a match famed for the audacious way in which Antonin Panenka chose to chip the winning penalty straight down the centre of Sepp Maier’s goal. Cast forward four years, and an enlarged eight-team tournament witnessed a definitive return to prominence for a National team that would go on to dominate the next decade of World football.

Scarcely recognisable from the side that sought to defend their 1972 crown (with just Captain Bernard Dietz and Rainer Bonhof keeping their places from the 1976 group), the 1980 West German squad was shorn of the likes of Beckenbauer – then plying his trade with the New York Cosmos – and Uli Hoeneβ – forced into retirement aged just 27 due to a knee injury sustained two years previous. In their stead stepped future stars such as Lothar Matthäus and Eike Immel. Yet this would prove to be a tournament belonging to two other lights: Karl-Heinze Rummenigge and Horst Hrubesch.

As briefly touched-upon, the Italy-based extravaganza became the first to accommodate more than just four teams, and the first to exhibit a structure more reminiscent of that of the modern era; with two groups of four. The Germans found themselves thrust against the aging (but still competent) Dutch, Greece, and their conquerors from four years hence, the Czechs. Indeed, while the format may have changed, the competition opened with a marked air of familiarity, as the DFB-Elf had the opportunity for revenge, taking on Czechoslovakia.

Perhaps with the weight of expectation exerting too much on them, the pre-tournament favourites struggled to press their superiority into effect amid the imposing arena of the Stadio Olimpico. However, Rummenigge’s far-post headed effort on 57’ finally broke the deadlock, the Czechs managed only one real counter attempt – Zdenek Nehoda wasting a good chance from the edge of the 18-yard box – and Germany were off and running. After that match, Rummenigge was quick to try and alleviate any further pressure from the collective youthful shoulders of his teammates, noting “it was an important match and a very good start to the tournament for us. We had a new, young team [who] weren’t favourites to win at all”.

It would take just a further 65 minutes for the Germans to truly mark their arrival at the tournament; with a whirlwind first half display that would leave not even Rummenigge able to argue to the contrary. Noting the laborious manner of the opening game, Coach Jupp Derwall opted to remove Bernd Förster, replacing him with 20-year-old Bernd Schuster. Schuster would go on to garner a place in the team of the tournament. But for this encounter, he was tormenter-in-chief, with a hand in each of his side’s three goals as the Dutch were swept aside. With a breath-taking level of exuberance, Schuster dominated the midfield, and it was his 20’ effort that cannoned off the from fully 25 yards, straight to Klaus Allofss to tuck in the rebound. While Germany somehow failed to extend their lead before the break, it took them just 15 minutes after it to double the advantage – Schuster playing Hansi Müller in along the right hand flank to tee-up Allofs for his second. Five minutes later, the hat-trick was complete; as a weaving run from Schuster bewitched the Oranje rearguard, allowing him time to pull the ball back to Allofs to net from all of five yards out.

Berndt Schuster:a revelation at the tournament

Berndt Schuster:a revelation at the tournament

That game – against one of the DFB’s most fearsome rivals – was also notable for affording Lothar Matthäus the first of his 150 international caps. But it was a debut to forget for the then-19-year-old, who tripped Wijnstekers in the 79’, to give the Netherlands a lifeline duly converted by Johnny Rep. The final scoreline became even tighter with five minutes remaining – a 30-yard screamer from van der Kerkhof making the last few moments uncomfortable for Derwall’s men – but Germany held on. After the game, Schuster was thrust further into the limelight, as he was designed to attend the post-match press conference. Showing a maturity that matched his on-field play yet belied his youth, Schuster was quick to spread the praise that came his way:

“we had a good mix of experience and youth [in the team today]. We had an excellent nucleus to the [side] and played really well together”.

Group game number three offered a small reality-check for the Germans, as a stuttering display that yielded a scoreless draw with Greece was heralded as the direct result of playing without Schuster. That such a young man should already be carrying such a weight of expectation and mantle in his homeland was of concern to Derwall as he prepared for the final.

Group A – Final Standings

Team

P

W

D

L

GF GA Pts
West Germany

3

2

1

0

4

2

5

Czechoslovakia

3

1

1

1

4

3

3

Netherlands

3

1

1

1

4

4

3

Greece

3

0

1

2

1

4

1

Final

In a move that surprised literally nobody, Schuster was restored to Derwall’s starting eleven. In one that did surprise a few, Horst Hrubesch retained his starting berth, despite not scoring thus far in the competition. Confidence back home was high, as the West German press began printing mock-up pictures of the team hoisting the trophy aloft even before the game had started, such was the restored level of belief held in the side to elevate themselves to the top of the European stage once more.

Yet no team had won the Henri Delaunay trophy on more than one occasion and – as with the opening game – the apparent inevitability of the German ascension an attack on the edge of his own area, before racing through seemed to be bearing down, as international commentators were quick to note an apparent nervousness amongst the players as they lined up for the pre-match ceremonials.

Cue Herr Schuster once more.

Just ten minutes of the game had passed, when the so-monikered ‘firebrand’ broke up a Belgian attack on the edge of his own area, before playing a quick one-two with Rummenigge, then arcing a wonderful chipped through-ball to Hrubesch. Known as the ‘heading monster’ (or, Kopfball-Ungeheuer) courtesy of a coach at Rot-Weiss Essen for his dominance in the air (with 81 of his 136 Bundesliga goals coming with his head), Hrubesch evoked the adage of “good feet for a big man” as he took the pass on, and comfortably opened the scoring.

Finding the Strength - Hrubesch Points the Way

Finding the Strength - Hrubesch Points the Way

Hrubesch himself had only found himself in the squad a matter of days before the start of the tournament and, at the age of 29, it seemed as though the opportunity of adding to his handful of international caps had passed him by. But, with the final preparations well-advanced, an untimely broken leg for Klaus Fischer saw Derwall turn to the 6’2” centre forward Hrubesch has since been more than willing to note the limits of his abilities, attributing his call-up to “the system at the time – it was a strong team…and we played some beautiful football. It was quite simple for me [to fit into the play]”.

As if to underline Hrubesch’s point, the Germans then created – and spurned – a number of other good first-half chances; Müller blazing over from inside the 18-yard box, and Jean-Marie Pfaff doing well to keep out efforts from Allofs and Schuster. But as the whistle went for half-time, they looked to be in complete control. Hrubesch picks up the tale: in the second half we saw Belgium’s class, and they deserved to equalise [through Vandereycken’s 75’ spot-kick, after Uli Stielike had felled Van der Elst]. Extra time would’ve been too much [for us]. So when we got a corner on the left, we were prepared. Rummenigge signalled…Pfaff stayed on his line…[and] I was able to [muster enough energy] to jump high…”

Hrubesch’s 88’ header sparked wild celebrations in the crowd, yet there was little evidence of the pre-tournament hooliganism that was so greatly feared, and Germany held on, the unlikely hero going on to admit that he “found it hard to lift the trophy – I was so tired after the game!”

22/06/1980, Stadio Olimpico, Att: 47,864

West Germany          2-1          Belgium

Hrubesch 10′, 88′      (1-0)         Vandereycken 75′(p)

Once again, West Germany took six places in the overall Team of the Tournament, with Karlheinze Förster, Hans-Peter Briegel, the irrepressible Schsuter, Müller, Rummenigge and Hrubesch being elected alongside four Italians (Zoff, Gentile, Scirea and Tardelli), and one Belgian (Ceulemans). Allof’s hat-trick against the Dutch saw him take the Golden Boot, while Rummenigge found himself crowned with the Ballon d’Or(with Schuster as runner-up).

And so, in a year that saw the Eurovision Song Contest won by Irishman Johnny Logan with ‘What’s Another Year?’, European football witnessed another European revision of sorts, as West Germany took to the helm. And, just as with eight years previous, this side would usher in a decade of dominance. Yet it would be another 16 years before they would get their hands on the European title again.

The Victorious Team

The Victorious Team

 

 

The Greatest? Euro 1972

In the first of a three-part series looking at German triumphs in the European Championships ahead of this summer’s tournament, Kyle Barber harks back to one of the most impressive national line-ups in history.

Maier, Breitner, Beckenbauer, Netzer and the eponymous Gerd Müller: some of the most lauded and recognisable names of German footballing history, and all synonymous with success. Having forged such reputations over the five or so years which preceded the 1972 European Championships, returning from Belgium with the trophy aloft both cemented their collective place in the annuls, and paved the way for the future.

 

Played out over an 18-month group league phase, followed by two-legged quarter finals and then the semi-finals and final, the format of Euro ’72 was somewhat different to the two-week setup of this year’s extrav. Of course at that time,Germany was still very much a divided nation. And while West Germany enjoyed a fairly routine passage through the league stage – topping their group with an unbeaten record (four wins and two draws, from games with Poland,Turkey and Albania) – their neighbours fared less well. Drawn with the imposing Yugoslavs and free-scoring Dutch (and whipping-boys,Luxembourg),East Germany were always likely to face a tough task to secure qualification (with only one team from each group progressing to the last eight). Thus it proved, as an opening run of three wins was overshadowed by two losses and a draw, leaving the side in third spot, two points behind group winners Yugoslavia.

Group 8

Team

P

W

D

L

GF GA Pts
West Germany

6

4

2

0

10   2 10
Poland

6

2

2

2

10   6   6
Turkey

6

2

1

3

  5 13   5
Albania

6

1

1

4

  5   9   3

 

Group 7

Team

P

W

D

L

GF GA Pts
Yugoslavia

6

3

3

0

  7   2   9
Netherlands

6

3

1

2

18   6   7
East Germany

6

3

1

2

11   6   7
Luxembourg

6

0

1

5

  1 23   1

 

The quarter-final line-up shaped up with Italy playing off with Belgium, Hungary taking on Romania, Yugoslavia facing the USSR, and West Germany drawn against England. It is generally regarded that a good deal of the self-belief engendered in the West German side of the 1970s had been generated a little over four years before the 1972 Final; through a 1-0 friendly win over World Champions England in Hanover. Harking back to his solitary strike that decided the game, Franz Beckenbauer would later proclaim: “It was the first time in history we had beaten the English. That was when we realised we could, and [we] lost some of the respect we had [for them]”.   Cast forward to 1970, and that confidence was reinforced as the two squared off in the World Cup quarter-final; this time with the Germans coming from two goals to take the victory 3-2. Now they would do battle once more, this time over the course of two legs.

 

The first leg saw the two teams returning to the hallowed Wembley turf. On a floodlit, damp late-April evening, the away side confirmed that the tide had fundamentally turned in their favour, producing a stirring, fluid display to comprehensively wash their hosts aside. In front of a crowd of 96,800, the West Germans took the lead through Uli Hoeneβ after 26 minutes, yet failed to reinforce their dominance, and England’s equaliser came courtesy of Franny Lee’s 77th minute tap-in. Eight minutes later, Bobby Moore mistimed a challenge on Siegfried Held, bringing the wideman crashing to the floor. Up stepped Günter Netze to drive the resulting penalty just beyond Gordan Banks, before ‘Der Bomber’ all but finished the tie three minutes later, beating six England defenders in the process. The post-match clamour that followed the away side’s performance was typified by L’Equipe’s proclamation of “football from the year 2000”, lending it an extra, ethereal quality. The second leg was something of a non-entity in all honesty, as the two teams played out a lacklustre goalless draw in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. Nonetheless,West Germany’s stock was rising, and their status on the global stage had been noted.

 

Quarter-Final, First Leg

29/04/1972

Wembley

96,800

England

Lee 77’

1-3

(0-1)

West Germany

Hoeneβ 26’

Netzer 85’(p)

Müller 88’

 

 

Quarter-Final, Second Leg

13/05/1972

Olympiastadion

76,122

West Germany

0-0

(0-0)

England

 

 

But it could just as easily never have come to pass. In Tor’, Uli Hesse notes how team coach, Helmut Schön, felt he was looking at “a dressing room of doubting men” before the double-header with the 1966 World Champions, recalling how injuries to the likes of Weber, Vogts and Overath left a depleted squad, adding to the malaise felt by the Bayern Munich contingent; who had suffered debilitating defeats to Rangers (in the Cup Winners Cup) and Duisburg (in the Bundesliga). With the 20-20 vision of history, that all merely serves to enhance the legend subsequently enjoyed by the early-1970s side.

 

And so to the ‘final’ tournament, and the semi-final match against the hosts Belgium(with the winners to meet either Hungaryor the USSR). Despite making notably heavy work of the home side, the dominance of the West Germans has since been acknowledged and well-credited by both sides. With Beckenbauer employed in his newly-ported deep-lying midfield playmaker role, the Belgians struggled to adapt their 4-4-2 sufficiently to shut down the space afforded to Der Kaiser, who was thus left to dictate the pace of the game. As a result, they frequently found themselves pulled out of position, allowing Jupp Heynckes and Erwin Kremer significant freedom on the flanks, and Netzer likewise in support of Müller. It was this pairing that would combine for the opening strike of the game, the latter heading home an inventive lob from the former with 24 minutes on the clock. It was at nigh-on the same juncture in the second half that the lead was doubled; the same duo coming together for Müller to steer home from close range on 71 minutes. And although Belgium had their chances – eventually pulling one back through an 83rd minute strike from Odilion Polleunis – the visitors’ ascendency was never really challenged.

 

Semi-Final

14/06/1972Antwerp55,669 Belgium

Polleunis 83’

1-2

(0-1)

West GermanyMüller 24’, 71’

 

Just four days later, and the apparent failure to get into their stride in the semi-final showed no sign of being revisited as the West Germans lined-up against a USSR side that was itself a scant memory of the 1960s behemoth. The match bore all the hallmarks of the old adage of ‘the King is dead; long live the King’, as the West Germans veritably tore into their opponents. Bouyed by a new-found level of belief, the West Germans prowled the surface of the Heysel Stadium as if it were their own, and the opening goal never seemed too far away, eventually arriving through the reliable instep of Müller after 27 minutes. Half-time recorded West Germany as having enjoyed over 60% of the ball, and an equal territorial advantage. Within 15 minutes of the restart, it was all over; Herbert Wimmer netting the second on 52 minutes, and Müller rounding things off just six minutes later, to register the largest ever winning margin in a European Championship final. The harmony of the performance was summed up by Müller as the final whistle blew: “we understand one another on and off the pitch, and you can’t ask for any more than that. Everything worked”.

 

Final

18/06/1972Heysel Stadium43,437 West Germany

Müller 27’, 58’

Wimmer 52’

3-0

(1-0)

USSR

 

The West Germans took six places in the overall Team of the Tournament, Beckenbauer, Breitner, Hoeneβ, Netzer, Heynckes and Müller lining up alongside four Soviets, and one Belgian.

 

Gerd Müller took the Golden Boot with 11 goals across all stages (five in the post-Group phase), to go with his Europe-wide equivalent. Beckenbauer secured the European Footballer of the Year title, and the quintessential West German ascendancy and efficiency was spawned; thus to dominate the next decade.

Robert Enke: ‘A Life too Short’

One of the greatest tragedies in the Bundesliga in recent times was the death of Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke. Kyle Barber writes a review of Ronald Reng’s book about the troubled German international. 

November 10th, 2011 marks the two-year anniversary of Robert Enke’s decision to take his own life. At approximately 6.15pm, the affable German international stepped in front of the Bremen regional express in the village of Eilvese. He was just 32, and left an adoptive child, devoted wife, and close circle of friends behind; consigned to an overwhelming void of emptiness. Within sight of that two-year mark, Enke’s story has finally been translated into English, courtesy of the eloquence of one of his inner circle – Ronald Reng. Through Yellow Jersey Press, ‘A Life too Short’ is a sombre, reflective accomplishment of the spiralling tragedy that was Robert Enke. While many people know something about the man, few will be fully aware of his life, career, and nuances of his story, much less the taboo of depression that has, since his passing, been far more widely embraced and addressed by German football, and German sport.

In terms of his professional career, Enke was reaching his peak. He was established as the Nationalmannschaft number one – with eight caps and a seemingly nailed-on spot for the following year’s World Cup, was Club Captain at Hannover 96 (with almost 200 appearances behind him), and had been voted best goalkeeper for the 2008-09 Bundesliga season in what would be his last. He had had a successful three-year spell with Benfica, and been coveted by Europe’s elite – even receiving a call from Sir Alex Ferguson in 2002. He looked to have overcome an ill-fated season at Barcelona, and the decision to renege on a contract with Fenerbaçhe.

Personally, he was wed to his soulmate and teenage sweetheart – Teresa, had a healthy, well-natured adoptive daughter – Leila, a close-knit circle of friends, and was well-liked and respected by his peers and community. He had overcome the death of his first child – Lara (who suffered with a degenerative heart defect from birth), and seemed content; even happy to those who thought they knew him. Those who truly knew him knew differently.

So much of Enke’s life was regimented – even truncated – in nature; from his methodical precision to detail when it came to his gloves – two dozen pairs, with foam 7mm in thickness (1mm more than the norm), and the thumb seam on the outside to improve feel – through to the dates which book-ended his career and life – debuting on November 11th, 1995 against, of all teams, Hannover 96. Routine is certainly far from being an alien concept in any way, shape, or form for an elite athlete. But the interspersion of heartbreak he endured served in encouraging an introspection that darkened both him and his outlook on life.

Through his personal relationship with Enke, Reng is able to offer a deeper, less evasive profile. Dipping beneath the veiled façade of both the stereotypical ‘professional footballer’, and that masqueraded by the man himself. He chronicles how Enke’s depression was both realised and yet controlled through regimen, though effused with an inherent love and care that the ‘keeper had to give – “At home, Robert cleaned his gloves with shampoo under the shower, laid them out to dry and stroked smooth the soft foam of their surface”, a routine he repeated after every game; win, lose, or draw.

Ronald Reng himself is a multi-award winning author, and the effortless fluidity of his style is exceptionally reinforced throughout this text by a language that is both foreshortened and succinct. In-keeping with this approach, Reng is able to offer a portrayal that is not only vivid and true, but also helps encapsulate Enke’s mindset, and the micro-orbit in which he found himself constricted. It was that perception that manifested from around the age of 19, when he began harbouring the paradoxical fears of anonymity and of disappointing those around him. It was that dual spectre that would weigh on the East German’s broad shoulders for the best part of 14 years; his anxieties manifesting as depression – his Black Dog. Enke, though, became expert at using a tool pivotal to the cycle of depression. He became adept at presenting a serene front, a projected calm that betrayed his inner struggle. That illusion was unwittingly captured by his coach at Benfica – and now Head Coach at Bayern, the illustrious Jupp Heynckes – who described him as “calm, serenity, equilibrium, class”. At no point during the book does Reng ask that we sympathise with Enke. Nor does he seek to elicit empathy. Rather, and more credibly, he serves to present the man outside of the emotion, preferring to allow that feeling to infuse chapter and page.

“It’s the goalkeeper’s torture – the constant demand on him not to make a single mistake….a goalkeeper must be able to repress things”: such is the cross which the final line of any team’s defence must bear. Yet Enke’s interpretation of this expectation led him inextricably to a degree of self-reproach and self-deprecation that was the harbinger for his disease to fester and grow. Enke developed a self-perception and mindset that meant he would distort events in a way that would always vindicate the subservience he felt. As Reng charts, Enke – from the age of 17 – had a “life divided in two” between professional football and everyday life. And it was that separation that leant well to the inherent kindness and tenderness that he repressed as a sportsman, but exuded as a human being (he would write poetry for Teresa; something wonderfully encapsulated by Reng to supplement the descent he captures, as we are taken from the buoyancy of a birthday prose, to the admission of how “he no longer felt the joy…the contentment that comes from writing down one’s thoughts” to annotate the burgeoning numbness that gradually overcame him). In the early years of his career, he was able to switch off, to compartmentalise the alternative aspects of his life without detriment to either branch. However, as the toils of trying to establish himself as meriting a squad place in his own right began to wear him down physically and mentally – coupled with the sense of isolation he felt through living away from everything he knew and loved – that balance shifted. Not in a tangible way, but in the psyche of a young man desperate to please, and to drink in all that he saw; Enke spent hours aping the mannerisms and techniques of the likes of Oliver Kahn, Edwin van der Sar, Uwe Kamps. In truth, nobody had higher expectations of, or put greater pressure on him than he did. And the lack of release, of escapism, began to blinker his outlook as he started to become his own prisoner.

Reng was granted access to Enke’s diaries – they were to pen an autobiography together – by his widow, Teresa. And the use of Enke’s own words to animate the apparently inherent inner demons he suppressed is morbidly fascinating and well-pitched in its progression through the 390-page text:

11.08.2003
“I feel helpless and anxious, I’m afraid of people’s eyes”

16.01.2004
“At the moment I am happy and content. We had a really lovely New Year’s Eve…I laughed and danced – incredible!”

29.04.2009
“Leila entered our life….She is a ray of sunshine, and there was a sense of intimacy straight away!”

05.08.2009
“At the moment it’s incredibly hard to be positive. It hit me quite quickly and unexpectedly…need to open up. I know myself that it’s impossible.”

03.09.2009
“Didn’t sleep. Everything seems pointless. Thinking about S.”

02.11.2009
“Nothing but self-reproach.”

The fact that Reng opted to omit certain parts of that serialisation is testament to the strength of their friendship, his commitment to Robert’s memory, and in understandable deference to the emotions of his family. That he is still able to present an evocative, emotive reflection of a man lost in his own existence is credit to him. And it is with a sense of overt reticence that Reng prefaces his text by saying “Today I know why the [idea of writing a] biography was so close to his heart….he would finally be able to talk about his illness….Robert summoned up a huge amount of strength to keep his depression secret. He locked himself away in his illness”.

“His internal film ran incessantly….There was no final whistle for him”
12 months ago, over 45,000 people attended a memorial service to one of German football’s most reserved, self-effacing and yet undoubtedly talented individuals as a nation collectively mourned. Today, the DFB, German football, and German sport in general, is amongst those most clearly attempting to embrace and address the taboos of depression. In penning ‘A Life Too Short’, and making it accessible to an English-speaking audience, Ronald Reng has dutifully honoured the memory and passing of his close friend with an air of sober eloquence and intuitive positivity. In doing so, he acutely captures the essence of how Enke lost himself to depression, forever trapped by a moribund sense of insufficiency and futility that he alone lived. This year, on November 10th, lend a moment of contemplation to the memory of a man who will forever be 32; who will forever be tormented; and who left a deep, reverent hole in the lives of so many. And – as Reng counsels – consider that, irrespective of what standing someone may have, or the subjective image they may portray: “Most depressives who attempt suicide don’t want to die, they just want the darkness that defines their thoughts to disappear once and for all”. Do not judge without consideration nor, in the Words of Guardian journalist Amy Lawrence, be so quick to castigate without pausing to wonder. Depression is an area of taboo equivalent to those of racism and homophobia when it comes to elite sport, and is swept under the carpet all too readily.

But such is one of the facets of the disease of depression that it carries an element of Stockholm Syndrome about it too; with the prisoner harbouring a tacit comfort from the confines it devises for them. It can be seen as lending a security blanket through routine and fear of change. Enke thought, as most depressives do, that openly admitting to having a problem would be seen as a sign of weakness. That feeling was exacerbated by the cutthroat bubble of elite sport and, most likely, not too far from the sad reality at that time. What his death has done (‘achieved’ would seem too morbid a term to use) is open – just a little – the doorway for acceptance in today’s world. This weekend, the German National side take on Ukraine in a friendly. The players in that team will afford themselves a moment of contemplation in homage to the memory of their lost compatriot, and the whole of football should be encouraged to do likewise.