Speed's death reminds us that football really is just a game
Published: 27.11.11 / Written by: David Gold
The death of Gary Speed has shocked the football world. Here was a man who was coaching the most talented young group of Welsh players for some years.
With the experience of Craig Bellamy, the potentially world class talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, and other starlets such as Sam Vokes.
But his death brings to light the pressures of modern football, and a reminder not that long after the death in 2009 of Hannover goalkeeper Robert Enke. Germany has been particularly afflicted by the demons of depression, and of course Stan Collymore wrote in a national newspaper earlier this weekend about his own battle with the mental problem.
That it is perhaps more permanent in Germany though, is illuminating. Germany is a country where football is not just the national sport, is dominates like no other can. Even in football mad Britain, France or Spain other sports also compete for coverage; cricket and rugby in the UK, tennis, handball and rugby again in France. Even the Italians are not quite as obsessed by the beautiful game as Germany, nor Brazil.
That kind of coverage, dominance and pre eminence of football can be a real issue and Speed’s death is a reminder of this. Here was a superbly talented young manager, who had enjoyed a superb career at club level; one of the most consistent players of his generation. That he has been lost before his time is a reminder to all of the dangers that our obsession and coverage of football can bring. The money too, does not help – it is so crucial, and small decisions, as invariably decide football matches, can be the difference between millions of pounds.
Perhaps it is best to remember this, and for media outlets in particular, to acknkowledge such truths when reporting and covering football. Unfortunately there will probably always be sportsmen who suffer from depression, and tragically may choose to take their lives. But the least the rest of us can do is provide a vehicle for them to at least be able to express their issue and tackle it – as well as remembering that football is just a game.
A famous former Liverpool manager once said, “football is not a matter of life and death…it is much more important than that.” Today, that phrase has never looked quite so stupid – but it is worth remembering, that as much as we love the game, whether your team wins or loses, it pales into insignificance compared to the health of those involved in the sport. Without that, the game is nothing.