As the sporting world digests the news of the death of Gary Speed, the former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder and lattermanager of the Welsh national team, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year has been awarded to the German sports writer Ronald Reng for A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke. The biography of the late Robert Enke, Reng’s and German national team goalkeeper, was praised by the judges “for its powerful and insightful nature as well as its sensitivity and sincerity.” It is the first translated title to win the prize. The book was first published in Germany (as Robert Enke: Ein allzu kurzes Leben), received widespread praise and soon became an international bestseller.
Graham Sharpe, the co-founder of the prize and the chairman of the judging panel, stated that:
Robert Enke was one of Germany’s greatest goalkeepers and his tragic death shocked the world. Ronald Reng’s intimate portrait – vivid, powerful and moving – is an outstanding piece of sportswriting and a very worthy winner of the prize.
The other judges were broadcaster and writer John Inverdale, award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney, broadcaster Danny Kelly and columnist and author Alyson Rudd.
In the NS’s review of the book, Simon Kuper finds it to be “At times … almost unbearably painful to read … but this is the mature work of a writer who has gone far beyond sensationalism. It allows you to turn back and read football differently … [It is] not just about Enke and depression, but about the stress that pervades most footballers’ lives.” Kuper notes that “Enke’s widow gave him [Reng] the dead man’s diaries and the poems he had written on his mobile … Reng writes, ‘I have deliberately excluded passages [from the diaries] that I see as too revealing.’ Not many biographers would do that.”
In September, Jonathan Derbyshire talked to Ronald Reng Enke’s tragic life and death. Before Enke’s suicide, he and Reng had agreed to work on the former’s autobiography, although they never discussed the footballer’s depression. Describing the national mourning in Germany which followed Enke’s death, Reng said that “I was certainly taken aback. There was a feeling of not knowing what to make of it, and a lot of people were absolutely moved by his death and they wanted to show their grief … This was something totally new in Germany – a big crowd gathering together to mourn.” Reng told Derbyshire how “he [Enke] and [his wife] Teresa had this vision, a dream scenario, that one day Robert would have moved to Lisbon and we would all sit on a roof terrace and contemplate his autobiography.”
“A Life Too Short” is published by Yellow Jersey Press.