Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Bundesliga Show Episode 43 – Bayern’s Bloody Nose, Dortmund’s Derby Day & Gladbach Glad All Over

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen, talk about the big events of matchday 14. It was derby weekend where Borussia Dortmund were rule the roost in the Ruhr, while in the Rhein derby it was Gladbach glory in Cologne. But the big result of the weekend was Mainz’ victory over table toppers Bayern Munich.

All that and a look forward to this coming weekend in the Bundesliga.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 43 – Bayern’s Bloody Nose, Dortmund’s Derby Day & Gladbach Glad All Over by soundoffootball

The Bundesliga Show – Leverkusen Extra

Jon Hartley talks to Eurosport commentator & uefa.com reporter Ian Holyman about Bayer Leverkusen’s dramatic win over Chelsea in the Champions League to secure their place in the next round of the competition.

The Bundesliga Show – Leverkusen Extra by soundoffootball

Game On! Bayern 0 – 1 Dortmund

A tactical overview by Kyle Barber.

Last season, this fixture produced one of the most memorable matches of the year. Dortmund looked rampant as they continued their romp towards the title; while the 3-1 reverse served to underline Bayern’s deficiencies and listlessness that typified a stuttering campaign.

Cast forward some 22 games, and one could be forgiven for assuming that the inevitable status quo was well on the way to being restored. As matchday 13 dawned, Bayern sat five points clear of last year’s Champions in second spot. And despite a return of 13 points from the past five games, BVB’s apparent travails in balancing duel domestic and continental commitments has left most observers unable to see beyond a point at best from their journey to the Bavarian heartland. Indeed, ahead of the game, Hans-Joachim Watzke – the Dortmund General Manager – had sounded a note of caution, counselling how daunting a trip to the Allianz Arena would be.

Full Backs

Dortmund, however, began the match seemingly intent on belying that air of prudence, as they flew at their hosts in the opening five minutes. Shorn of the presence of Bastian Schweinsteiger – yet bolstered by the returning Arjen Robben – Jupp Heynckes opted to retain the 4-2-3-1 formation that had served him so well thus far; bringing Luiz Gustavo in to sit alongside Toni Kroos. His opposite number, Jürgen Klopp, matched this set-up, employing Shinji Kagawa in a similar vein to that occupied by Thomas Müller, pressing high up onto the centre backs. With both central midfield pairings also pushing on, that congested area was largely bypassed by both sides. Bayern in particular, used their wide assets with great regularity, focusing on their fullbacks to start much of their attacking flow. The passing stats from the game bear that approach out, with Philipp Lahm and Rafinha having at least 20 touches more than anyone else, as well as completing twice as many passes as any Dortmund player as the hosts dominated possession (60.6% to 39.4%), and completed 476 passes to 200.

What Bayern used the ball to do, Dortmund countered with a more physical approach, concentrating on chasing down their opponents, and limiting time on the ball (committing twice the number of fouls in the process): by the time the half-time whistle blew, BVB had covered some six kilometres more than the home side, and five Dortmund players (Bender, Großkreutz, Kagawa, Götze, and Piszczek) ran further than the furthest-covering Bayern player (Gustavo). That figure would extend to more than 10.5km for the full 90 minutes, as youthful exuberance came to the fore. That tactic certainly had the effect of frustrating Bayern and, as the half wore on, they were more frequently drawn into adopting a long ball approach. However, a combination of tight marking on the ineffectual Mario Gomez, and a high starting position from Roman Weidenfeller meant that the sole Munich frontman often appeared isolated and outnumbered; more usually being beaten to the first header, and unable to offer much in the way of knock-downs to the midfield. The dual threat of Robben and Ribéry was unequivocally met with close marking and a succession of niggling challenges and fouls from Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer, as Klopp employed a direct man-for-man methodology.

As Dortmund began to feel more comfortable in handling the home side, so their quintessential counter-attacking philosophy began to show. Though often more protracted and slower than is usually witnessed, the wide options of Großkreutz and Götze offered an equal attacking intent as those of Ribéry and Robben, and Lewandowski ploughed a dogmatic furrow as the target man to occupy the central defence.

In the air

A similar profile characterised the opening stages of the second 45, as the away team showed relatively little forward endeavour, seemingly content to limit themselves to an early flurry, before settling back. The half-time whistle certainly came at an apropos time for Borussia, as they were noticeably dropping ever-deeper (though that was accentuated by Bayern’s reversion to the long ball). The most surprising feature of the opening exchanges of the second half was the apparent lack of invention from Bayern. Indeed, even their previous ideas to exploit the wide areas was eschewed, as the ball spent far more time in the air, through long diagonals from both full-backs. Of almost equal surprise was Heynckes seeming reticence in taking advantage of the extra man at his disposal in defence, with both Lahm and Rafinha rarely choosing to overlap their wingers.

By the time Heynckes did decide to twist, his team were a goal down. In the 65th minute, a long ball was allowed to bounce by the Bayern rearguard, and a smart one-two between Kagawa and Götze – followed by a mistimed attempted clearance – allowed the latter to poke beyond Manuel Neuer. Heynckes brought on David Alaba and Ivica Olic for Robben and Müller, but to little avail, as Dortmund withdrew to a more formulaic 4-4-2. Ten of Bayern’s fifteen shots came in the last twenty minutes of the match, but were limited to long-range efforts, as Dortmund closed ranks. The legs of Moritz Leitner replaced the indefatigable Sebastian Kehl, as Klopp battened down the hatches. The late introduction of Nils Petersen was too late on to have an effect, and left Heynckes with more questions than answers over what Plan B may look like: “When you play against Borussia Dortmund you’ve got to put them under more pressure than we did today. We didn’t capitalise on raising the tempo in order to create goal scoring opportunities”.

Double fist pump

While this victory lacked the verve and swagger that accompanied Dortmund’s 3-1 triumph of last season, it may well have given Jürgen Klopp more satisfaction. The early stages of this campaign have seen a number of accusations of an inability to cope with expectation levelled at his young side, and this win offered a sturdier facet to their make-up. That should help to foster a strong second half to the League season, especially if they do manage to secure European competition past the Winterpause. For Klopp, the double fist-pump returned, and the enthusiasm which greeted the win belied how much of a watershed the game was: “We gave away surprisingly little and worked fantastically well without the ball. Out of the few good moments we had, we managed to convert once. We were patient and disciplined and are not undeserving winners”.

It also marked three straights wins against Bayern, and a return of six goals to two over that period, as Watzke quickly changed tack to proclaim “we weren’t looking above us [before the game], and the same applies now. Four weeks ago, we were supposedly in a state of crisis!”

Follow Kyle Barber on Twitter

The Bundesliga Show Episode 42 – A mixed weekend of sadness and joy in the Bundesliga

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley, talk about the big issues of Matchday 13 in the Bundesliga. It was a mixed weekend of emotions in the Bundesliga…sadness at the news of Referee Babak Rafati tried to take his own life before Cologne’s game with Hannover.

Also in the show, author and journalist Uli Hesse talks about the big match of the week between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 42 – A mixed weekend of sadness and joy in the Bundesliga by soundoffootball

Lounge Acts Postview: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund

In what was billed as the match of the round, the supposed epic tussle between current Bundesliga champions Borrusia Dortmund and current league leaders Bayern Munich turned into a farce with both sides ending the match with fewer men than they began and Jürgen Klopp likely awaiting a heavy fine after his antics in a scoreless draw. On a night when Klopp lost his cool under the dual pressures of managing his young squad both in Germany and in Champions League competition, it was in fact Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer who will be stealing the headlines after his unsporting behavior following his save of a Lucas Barrios penalty in the 65th minute earned him the early gate. The shared points, coupled with Werder Bremen’s 2-1 success at Borrusia Park saw BvB drop to third in the table, while the Bavarians’ lead at the top shrunk to three points.

With Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anatoliy Tymoschuck both out for Bayern, Jupp Heynckes drafted in Luiz Gustavo alongside Toni Kroos in the center of his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Danijel Pranjic was given a rare start on the right wing with dynamo Thomas Müller pulled inside to support top scorer Mario Gomez, and French James Bond villain Franck Ribery manning the left. The level of comfort and communication among this set of players was lacking from the off, as what appeared to be a promising offensive movement in the 18th minute, begun on the break by a deep-lying Gustavo, ended in tragi-comedy as an outlet pass made by Müller out wide just rolled out of bounds with a non-reactive Pranjic watching it go out. Pranjic then shrugged his shoulders, motioning to young Thomas as if asking, “Wait, you meant to pass it to me? What team am I on again?” This came on the heels of an incident in the 13th minute, where it Ribery could be seen attempting to sneak up on BvB’s Sven Bender from behind and to give the young midfielder a “wet willy.”

The Wet Willy & Shinji’s Socks Formation

Dortmund were just as impressive in their end, however, and refused to come second in had quickly become a comedy of errors at the Allianz. Shinji Kagawa, eager to regain the form that brought him such accolades last campaign prior to a metatarsal injury suffered in January’s Asian Cup shelved him for a spell, ran his socks off. Quite literally it could be said, as when made a cutting run across the face of Manuel Neuer’s goal area in the 32nd minute, he was unable to slow his momentum and ran off the field of play, into a bank of cameramen pitch-side. Subsequently extricating himself from one cameraman’s equipment Kagawa ripped his right sock, revealing a shin guard covered in images of Shinji’s supposedly favorite Dragonball Z characters. Exacerbated that this occurred with the ball still in play and Dortmund down a man, Klopp accidentally performed a reverse double-fist pump on the opposite side of the pitch which connected with the 4th official, causing a ten minute delay in play while the head referee checked on his colleague. Dortmund’s staff quickly re-socked Kagawa, who continued for the rest of the match in what he later described as “Super Saiyan” mode.

The first half ended with neither side truly showing his quality, as the stoppage of play for the 4th official, coupled with the Ribery’s insistence on not passing to Gomez until the German international called for the ball by flapping his arms like a chicken made the opening 45 minutes a clunky affair. It was not until the 2nd half when the action became truly interesting, if not alarming. With BvB having gained a foothold in the match once Klopp brought on young Moritz Leitner in place of Sebastian Kehl around the hour mark, Neuer began being called into real action for the first times of the evening. As that trademark pressure around the opposition’s final third started wearing down a rather exhausted Bayern back line, Neuer was forced into making two fine saves–one on a cheeky backheel from forward Lucas Barrios and the second from a dangerous free kick from Mats Hummels.

A penalty call for a hand ball in the box by Gustavo in the 65th minute was turned down by referee Wolfgang Stark, and at this point is where Klopp lost his composure. Play was once again halted as the young trainer stormed the pitch to confront Stark, causing copious amounts of spittle to fly from his mouth onto Stark’s slightly aghast face. As the referee sought assistance in removing Klopp from the field as well as the park, Klopp dropped to his knees and began pulling up handfuls of the turf and shoving the blades of grass into his mouth in an apparent attempt to stem the amount of saliva still dribbling. Once order was restored and Klopp was no longer about, real calamity struck for Dortmund when they were reduced to ten men following a questionable red card handed to Sven Bender just a short time later.

“Coq au Vin Gomes, Coq au Vin.”

In the 68th minute, Bayern’s Müller slipped on the now-bald patch of dirt created by Klopp’s performance as he was advancing the ball up the park. Bender, who had been marking Müller tighter in this 2nd half, had been defending Müller at the time and supposedly said, “What you fell over for Mule?” while the Bayern player was on the ground. Stark, who was near enough to hear Bender’s words, immediately blew his whistle and reached for a red card to tumultuous applause from the dumbstruck Allianz Arena. While Stark has yet to speak officially on his decision, reports suggest he thought Bender had used racist language when addressing Müller, and the red card was given for grossly unsporting conduct. And while he was no longer a party to the proceedings by this point, it has been further reported Klopp ruptured a blood vessel in his temple upon hearing of Bender’s dismissal, and there is now a doubt as to his health over managing the squad in their upcoming Champions League match against Arsenal.

Now down a man, Dortmund lost the initiative, and the match favored Bayern going forward. Ribery delivered a well-placed cross into the box for Gomez but the striker’s headed shot went well wide of Roman Weidenfeller’s goal in the 74th minute. Having the bulk of possession playing with the man advantage, Bayern Munich were able to pin BvB into their end for the remainder, until a swift counter attack turned the match completely upside down. His first touch having let him down, Toni Kroos gifted the ball to Hummels around the 77th minute. Hummels then swiftly hoofed the ball to a streaking Kagawa, finding the speedy player on a dead run just over the midfield stripe. As Bayern’s defenders were too far up the pitch in search of that winning goal, Kagawa looked to have had a free run on Neuer, but Germany’s captain Philipp Lahm recovered to shield his keeper but in the process had a deserved penalty called on him.

With Bayern now also reduced to ten men, it was Barrios who was called upon to attempt and snatch a winner from Fortress Allianz if he could but sneak one past the mighty Neuer. Amazingly, Barrios scuffed his shot, sending it over the crossbar and into the dark of that cold, Bavarian night. Even more amazingly, Neuer then produced a replica Borussia Dortmund shirt from behind his goal, waving it in front of a crestfallen Barrios before proceeding to wipe his bottom on the BvB crest of the jersey. Match officials tell us Neuer was yelling something like, “There’s your Arsemund Lucy!”

At this point, Stark had lost complete control of the match, and with members of both clubs on the field attempting to keep both sets of players from engaging in an all-out fight–well, except for Gomez, who was still to be found up far up the pitch running his fingers through his hair–the full time whistle was blown after only 82 minutes of play. Pranjic could be seen reaching into Stark’s pockets for cards and confusingly, looks to have given himself a yellow card.

There is no word on whether the caution Pranjic awarded himself will be counted as an official card by league officials. Further, there is no word on whether Schalke 04 have plans to send a congratulatory card to Neuer for his part in the match.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 41 – More crisis in Cologne & the battle of the top four

This week Jon Hartley & Terry Duffelen record The Bundesliga Show from the banks of the River Thames in London and discuss the latest problems at FC Cologne after the resignation of President Wolfgang Overath.

They also preview the big matchday 13 battles between the top four – Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 41 – More crisis in Cologne & the battle of the top four by soundoffootball

Preview: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund

The Earth shakes, the mind aches. From time to time there are results that make the ground tremble, metaphorically of course (football matches causing earthquakes would be hideous). Borussia Dortmund’s 3-1 victory at Bayern Munich, last season, was such a result. It was a match that shook the foundations of the Bundesliga… for a while at least.

The truth is that the Bundesliga is a beast, well settled in its patch and that patch is very much the property of FC Bayern. In recent seasons the Munich club have stopped to check that they’ve stepped in something, got distracted and allowed someone else to steal a march on them. Stuttgart in 2007, Wolfsburg in 2009 and BVB in 2011, all odd numbered years. The pattern is clear: after a major international tournament, Bayern are sluggish. Apart from that, they rule.

So with the hand of history on their shoulders, the current champions, Borussia Dortmund travel to Bayern to face the Bundesliga leaders who will not necessarily be looking to avenge the defeat at the Allianz, last season but to simply take care of business. This is what Bayern do when they are at their best. That is why they are loved, hated and above all respected.

Flowery rhetoric aside, this match has come at the perfect time in the season for the neutral. About a month ago, Dortmund were still recovering from a tricky start to the campaign while Bayern were in full flow. BVB have since got better while Bayern have the defeat at Hannover and the less than convincing win at home to bottom club Augsburg to consider.

Of course, the Dortmund club will play a high intensity passing game while Bayern have proved vulnerable to teams are who willing of playing without the ball (in Augsburg’s case because they had no choice). BVB have stacks of pace but will be less likely to come bursting out of defence, hoping to catch Bayern’s defenders on the hop. This tactic will be more comfortable for Bayern, albeit hardly playing into their coach, Jupp Heynkes’, hands.

Both coaches have selection headaches. Will Jurgen Klopp play his regular front man, Lucas Barrios who should be ready and able after lengthy injury problems or will he stick with Robert Lewandowski, the Polish striker who has deputised for the Paraguayan international brilliantly? Centre back Nevan Subotic has been the proverbial rock against a hard place but got his face rearranged by Sotirios Kyrgiakos in the last Bundesliga match against Wolfsburg. He faces a long absence.

Heynkes is missing Bastian Schweinsteiger! Consequently there is a big hole in the Bayern midfield waiting to be populated by scurrying Dortmund attackers like the lethal Mario Gotze and the rapidly returning to form Shinji  Kagawa. Options include playing Toni Kroos in the screening midfielder’s role or moving one of his defenders forward. Neither choice seems palatable and this would be a good time for Heynkes to include Luiz Gustavo in his strategy. The Brazilian has been more of a utility player since joining Bayern but did his best work in the middle of the park for his old club, Hoffenheim.

Plenty to ponder then and even more to look forward to but with the majority of the season still ahead of us this does not have the same sense of climax as the corresponding fixture, last season. Neither team will win the title as a result of this game but of the two we may well be seeing the Bundesliga winners come May 2012.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 40 – Remembering Robert Enke

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen are joined by Kyle Barber to remember Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke. Robert took his own life 2-years ago this week, and on the pod his story, achievements and his legacy are remembered.

Also on the show, a run-down of the key matches from matchday 12 of the Bundesliga.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 40 – Remembering Robert Enke by soundoffootball

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.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 39a – Special stats bonus edition

Welcome to this special stats bonus edition of The Bundesliga Show. Jon Hartley talks over the Bundesliga in numbers with Holger Ruhl from Opta Sports (aka @biggrabbowski & @optafranz).

Holger spills the beans on what is going right and wrong at a host of Bundesliga clubs…and why young players should learn from their elders.
The Bundesliga Show Episode 39a – Special stats bonus edition by soundoffootball