Book Review – A Life Too Short by Ronald Reng

a-life-too-short-front-coverRobert Enke was a tremendously gifted goalkeeper. He had eight German caps to his name and had established himself as one of Europe’s most reliable, most talented players.

He was a splendid human being as well; caring, kind-hearted, thoughtful. But, as Ronald Reng shows in this remarkable piece of biographical writing, clinical depression can take whoever it wants and Enke was one of its unfortunate victims.

Reng, a journalist and friend of Enke, had begun work on this book before the goalkeeper’s suicide and with such a troubled life story to tell, he continued to write it after the footballer’s death. And we’re all the better for it.

A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke is a fine piece of work and, justifiably, it was winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2011. Reng wonderfully balances Enke’s personal woes with his professional highs and lows and, more pertinently, he highlights with staggering honesty the way the two intertwine.

For Enke was a man afraid of his own success. He feared failure to an extent beyond comprehension for anybody who has not suffered depression themselves. That fear, that all-encompassing fear, led Enke to step in front of a passing train on 10th November 2009, leaving his wife, Teresa, and adopted daughter, Leila, behind.

Reng styles his writing sensibly and places significant emphasis on Enke’s most harrowing moments, one of which being a 3-2 defeat as Barcelona ‘keeper against FC Novelda, a Spanish Third Division side. His hesitance off the line was, in part, the fault that led to Novelda’s winning goal.

For most, it could be forgotten in weeks. But not for Enke.

His story, so well encapsulated here, transcends so much further than football, for depression is an illness that can affect anyone. It plays on your mind and for Enke, it made his thoughts dark and his days long, bleak and tiresome.

Reng, as a writer, cannot simply throw you into Enke’s mindset but he comes as close as is humanly possible and, as this life story reaches its nigh, you can’t help but feel saddened.

What is worth noting, though, is that while emotion proves to be the focal point of this biography, it also enriches you and open your eyes. When we talk of football, or sport, we usually talk of scandal, of competition, of victory and of defeat.

But the lives within it often carry the best tales. This story brings to the fore the terror and the heartache that depression can bring on families and on individuals.

Enke’s life, it’s meandering intricacies and relationships, is beautifully told by Reng. It’s harrowing in its substance but poetic nonetheless and is accessible to all.

RIP Robert Enke.

The life of a sports journo – Dean Jones interview

What could be better than waking up every morning, knowing your day would be spent talking about and watching football? 

It’s a nice idea, and it’s one that Dean Jones, football reporter for The People, subscribes to. Except for him, of course, it’s a reality.

There’s no fitting in matches around work, no catching up on interviews after the nine-to-five is over. Football is his job and he very much lives it. And he’s always wanted to.

“I knew from a very early age that if I did not make it as a footballer, I wanted to write about it,” Dean said.

“I read papers every day from the age of about 14 and by 16 I was covering matches for an agency, who are now called Hayters Teamwork.

“Thinking back, it was brave of them to let me do it so young but it kind of came naturally to me so I didn’t think about how old I was.

“I had a full-time job as a reporter by age of 20.”

As much as it came naturally, and despite a somewhat captivating façade to the role of a sports journalist, Dean admits it’s not all plain sailing.

The boom in social media has added a new aspect to his job and, unsurprisingly, instant interaction on sites such as Twitter isn’t always complimentary.

“It’s not easy. People seem to think journalists make up transfer stories and news stories but it’s simply not true.

“Making contacts and working out who you can trust takes time, and is not as straight forward as it sounds.

“Twitter has changed the game too, because so many stories/rumours break on there – and we also have thousands of people ready to tweet abuse when we get a story wrong!”

That abuse, seemingly, can even come from fans of his own club – Fulham. When breaking the news of Bobby Zamora’s spat with Martin Jol last year, Dean was met with disdain in some quarters.

He doesn’t let his allegiance to the Whites affect his duty, though, and feels breaking the story is what matters most.

“[Putting loyalties aside is] not something I have ever had a problem with.

“When I broke the story of Bobby Zamora having a bust-up with Jol and stated that he’d be leaving in January, some fans suggested on Twitter I was out of order because I was upsetting the club I support.

“But, ultimately, if you have a good story and know it is correct, you can not worry about who it impacts on.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Fulham’s fortunes don’t take their toll. He cites the club’s extra-time loss to Atletico Madrid in the inaugural Europa League final as his saddest moment on the job.

It’s not all bad, though,  being a sports hack:

“I was inside the Olympic Stadium reporting on the night Ennis, Farah and Rutherford won their gold medals,” he reminisced.

“That hour was unlike anything I have ever experienced in terms of drama and stadium noise.

“[I] will never see anything like it again, either.”