A look at the current Germany National squad paints a rosy picture. Outstanding attackers, talented midfielders, skilled defenders and behind them all an imperious goalkeeper ai??i?? Manuel Neuer. Yet, if certain events had not unfolded, Neuer would not be a household name at this time. No, he would have still been just another talented goalkeeper from Germany.

But fate had other ideas, and the 2010 World Cup saw Neuer being thrust into the limelight despite being the third-choice goalkeeper for Joachim Lowai??i??s Germany. Second choice keeper Rene Adler was out with an eye infection, and the first-choice keeper ai??i?? the one supposed to don the gloves in South Africa ai??i?? had called it quits. For good.

On this day, five years ago, former Barcelona and Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke lost his battle with depression and committed suicide by standing in front of a train. Enke left behind his wife Teresa and his then 10-month old daughter. He also left behind a suicide note, explaining the illness that had been growing inside him for the past few years, tormenting him. And one that finally overcame him.

In his award-winning book, A life too short: The tragedy of Robert Enke, Ronald Reng describes Enkeai??i??s continuous struggles with clinical depression. According to Reng, Enke had decided to collaborate with Reng for a biography once his playing days were over. The intention was to shed light on a disease that affects more footballers than the authorities and the people involved in the game would care to admit.

ai???When his career was over, he would finally be able to talk about his illness.

“In our achievement-oriented society a goalkeeper, the last bastion in defence, canai??i??t be a depressive. So Robert summoned up a huge amount of strength to keep his depression secret. He locked himself away in his illness,ai??? writes Reng.

According to Reng, Enke encountered the first of his depressive spells while playing for Barcelona in September 2002, when the Spanish giants were knocked out of the Spanish Cup by lowly Novelda CF. Enke came under public criticism from his teammate Frank de Boer after conceding two late goals, something that made Enke retreat into his shell.

Facing stiff competition for the no.1 position at Barca, and with the only constant being managerial upheavals, Enke moved on loan to Fenerbahce, a move that would further exacerbate his underlying condition. Enke played only one game for the Turkish giants, a 0-3 loss for which he was blamed by fans and the press alike.

Enke contemplated leaving football for good, but decided to fight for his career on the advice of friends and family. He moved down a division to Tenerife, where he enjoyed a spectacular turnaround, winning the respect and admiration of all around him.

Soon, Enke was back on the right track, returning home to the Bundesliga with Hannover in 2004, where he enjoyed the best times of his career. It was a proud day for the German when he was voted as the best goalkeeper in the league by his peers.

All was well once again -it seemed Enke had buried the demons deep inside his head, and that the past would not come back to haunt him. But tragedy struck the Enke household in 2006, when their first daughter Lara, 2 years old at the time, died due to a rare heart condition. This was a loss that Enke would never fully recover from, yet he never let it show to the outside world. Inside, though, the wolves of depression had already begun howling.

Despite being voted the best goalkeeper (again) of the 2008-09 season, Enkeai??i??s fight with the debilitating illness was taking its toll on the German. And on November 10, two days after playing in a 2-2 draw against Hamburg, Enke left for the training ground but instead headed straight for the railway crossing, never to come back again.

Enkeai??i??s death and Rengai??i??s book brought to light an issue that many find it easier to sweep under the rug ai??i?? that footballers are humans first. And that they are just as susceptible to the problems of everyday humans, perhaps even more so considering the always-scrutinized and cut-throat world of international sports.

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