Shankly, Enke and perspective

November 12, 2009

Bill Shankly once uttered “Some people think football is a matter of life and death, I assure you, it’s much more serious than that”.

I’ve always had a major problem with this quote, at the risk of sounding like a woman, football IS only a game. A game played by 2 teams of men kicking a ball around a field for the pleasure of a group of paying fans. It isn’t a matter of life and death at all, at best, it’s about petty regional bragging rights (Forest and Derby).at worst it’s a substitute for warfare.

What football needs now, in the aftermath of the tragic case of Robert Enke, is a sense of perspective and it needs to look at how it treats its players.

Football is essentially a brash, excessively macho culture, where any perceived weakness is instantly pounced on by both fans and opposition. Take a look at Enke, for years he struggled with depression, but at no point did he feel he could openly discuss his problems. And if Enke doesn’t make you think, ponder this one for a moment.

How many gay footballers can you name? I bet it’s precisely one, Mr Justin Fashanu. Actually, that was a trick question because out of the thousands of footballers who have played in this country, only Justin Fashanu has “come out”, and even then he had to endure his own brother, John Fashanu, publically distance himself from him. In an interview with “The Voice”, John described Justin as an “outcast”, classy move John. But then again, why would a footballer come out? Considering the vile chants that have been directed at Sol Campbell in recent years, it really sounds like more hassle than it’s worth. Best just to suffer in silence, just like Robert Enke.

Enke suffered for years, not feeling that he could openly and honestly discuss his problems with depression. Fashanu decided that he wanted to discuss his homosexuality and suffered abuse from all sides for it. What ultimately connects these 2 men is that they took their own lives, and all because they couldn’t talk, just talk honestly without fear of being abused for their problems.

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