Disturbing tale of how pressures of top-level sport drove one man's life to a tragic conclusion

William Hill Sports Book of the Year award -- the contenders

The winner of the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year will be revealed next Monday.  This week, The Sports Bookshelf presents a run-down of the seven titles on the short list. Today:

A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke (Yellow Jersey)


In the early evening of November 10th, 2009, the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke, parked his black Mercedes SUV close to a level crossing in the north-west German state of Lower Saxony and stepped in front of a train travelling at more than 100mph. He was 32 years old.

The football world and beyond was stunned, friends and supporters unable to comprehend why an international footballer apparently at the peak of his career should decide to take his own life.

Enke’s life in football had taken him to Benfica and Barcelona before he established himself back in his homeland with Hannover 96.  He looked likely to be Germany’s first choice ’keeper at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.  But behind his success lay a different Robert Enke, one who had been dealt personal tragedy with the death of his two-year-old daughter in 2006 and had from a young age struggled with anxiety and depression.

In A Life Too Short, the award-winning writer Ronald Reng, pieces together the story of a man who had also been his friend, revealing much about the pressure on those who play sport at the top level and the fears with which many grapple behind a veneer of false confidence. Heartfelt, but never sentimental, Reng describes in painful details the tragedy of a talented man ultimately beaten by his own demons.


“An exceptional, deeply personal memoir. After reading it, I have looked in the mirror and felt ashamed about some opinions I have dived into. It is so easy to rush to judgment, to make a cartoon villain of someone or vent spleen from a position of the supposed moral high ground.”
--- Amy Lawrence, guardian.co.uk.  Read more…

“English footballers will tell you privately that depression is a far bigger issue than is currently recognised.  There are few suicides, but many suffer in silence, afraid even to seek counselling. Instead, many seek solace in alcohol. Maybe by reading about a German who took his life, more will understand.”
--- Andy Mitten, Manchester Evening News. Read more…

“Books like this will hopefully help more people see that depression is not a fad, not a lifestyle choice, not even a question of being fed up from time to time, but an illness that can have the most horrific consequences.”
--- Alastair Campbell. Read more…


Ronald Reng is a London-based German freelance journalist, who has written about English football for, amongst others, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, and Zurich's Tagesanzeiger.  In 2004, he won the biography prize at the British Sports Book Awards for The Keeper Of Dreams -- coincidentally, another story about a goalkeeper, Lars Leese, who was plucked from obscurity in the Bundesliga to play for Barnsley in the Premier League.

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The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £23,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a £2,000 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races. 

The judging panel for this year’s award consists of broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; broadcaster Danny Kelly; and columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chairman of the panel is John Gaustad, co-creator of the award and founder of the Sportspages bookshop. 

The winner will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstone’s Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday 28th November.

The Ghost Runner
32 Programmes

The shortlist in full:
1. Among the Fans: From Ashes to the Arrows, a Year of Watching the Watchers by Patrick Collins (Wisden Sports Writing)
2. Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (Profile Books)
3. The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop by Bill Jones (Mainstream Publishing)
4. Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage (Simon & Schuster)
5. Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar by David Millar (Orion)
6. A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng (Yellow Jersey Press)
7. 32 Programmes by Dave Roberts (Bantam Press)

More on the 2011 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

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