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Winter break review

December 27, 2009

The first half of the 2009/10 Bundesliga season has been an eventful one, both on and off the pitch. Here we ask Paul Chapman, a regular independent soccer analyst for Deutsche Welle, his opinions on the season so far.

Fans holding up a poster of Robert Enke
The current season will always be remembered for the tragic suicide of Robert EnkeImage: AP

DW: What were the best and worst games of the first half of the season in your opinion?

Paul Chapman: One thing is virtually certain and that is that we won't see a crazier game this season than the one on December 12 which finished Borussia Moenchengladbach 5 Hanover 3.

What made the fixture amazing was that six of the goals were scored by Hanover players. Three went into the Borussia net and three into the Hannover net. So from Hanover's point of view at least, this must have been the worst game of the season so far.

Bayern Munich players celebrates after Mario Gomez scored, scoring during a Champions League, group A, soccer match between Juventus and Bayern Munich at the Olympic stadium in Turin, Italy, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009.
Bayern's 4-1 victory in Turin was a vintage performanceImage: AP

The best for me has to be Bayern Munich's qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League this season. With Bayern seemingly going out in the group stages, they managed by a combination of results to give themselves hope going into the final game. It was clear enough: Bayern Munich, if they wanted to progress, had to go to Turin and beat Juventus.

After so much criticism from the fans and the media, Bayern Munich turned the clock back to treat us to a display equal to anything they've ever produced in Europe. They beat Juventus 4-1 with an outstanding performance and they provided us with a magnificent match featuring all that's best in football.

What has been your biggest disappointment so far this season?

VFL Wolfsburg's Grafite is a shadow of the player who was the leading scorer last season. The big Brazilian has struggled to produce anything like his previous form and what is worrying is that not only have the goals dried up but also he seems short of pace and he's robbed by defenders too easily. The big striker still looks a mere shadow of the man who outscored everyone in the Bundesliga last season and helped the Wolves to the title.

What was the biggest surprise in the first half of the season, in your opinion?

Philipp Lahm
Lahm's outburst was a surprising break of characterImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Philipp Lahm being disciplined by his club Bayern Munich for speaking out about what he saw as the club being run badly because Lahm is not a player you would expect to speak out of turn.

However, at the time he spoke out, the state of things at Bayern Munich suggested he was right. His comments seemed to suggest a big rift between the players and the new coach Louis van Gaal.

Lahm was fined 25,000 Euros by Bayern and warned about his future behaviour and the matter was supposedly done and dusted. Lahm wasn't dropped but his next two outings for Bayern were probably the worst performances he'd ever given for the club.

What was the least surprising thing you witnessed?

Jens Lehmann
A career of madness continues in Lehmann's 40th yearImage: picture alliance / dpa

Jens Lehmann still acting the fool! You'd think at the ripe old age of 40, he would have put all his crazy stunts behind him and that he'd now be a role model for others but sadly he never has been and obviously never will be.

Take the recent game against Mainz. Stuttgart were on course for a vital 1-0 victory, but after spending the majority of the game provoking the Mainz players, Lehmann capped an insane performance by deliberately stamped on the foot of Mainz Striker Bance.

Unfortunately for Lehmann, the referee clearly saw the situation and didn't hesitate to send Lehmann off and award Mainz a penalty which was duly scored in the 90th minute and so the 1-0 victory that was in Stuttgart's hands was thrown away by Lehmann's moment of madness.

The first half of the 2009/10 season will always be remembered for the tragic death of Robert Enke. What are your memories of Robert Enke and your feelings towards his death?

I've been reporting on German football for over 30 years now and two of the saddest stories in that period have involved the Enke family. First there was death of little Lara and then the tragic suicide of Robert.

Enke was the star and the captain at Hanover 96. He looked certain to be on the plane to South Africa this coming summer with the World Cup squad. He had a supportive wife, a lovely home and several dogs which he'd rescued from the streets. He was quite simply a top sportsman and a very decent man.

The sad truth though is that he suffered from depression and had done for six years. At times it had been worse than at others and certainly it must have been the lowest point of Robert and wife Teresa's lives when their lovely two year old daughter Lara died in September 2006.

In March of that year, there had been genuine hope that Lara might live and who will ever forget the joyous scenes after Hannover beat Cologne 1-0 in March 2006 at the AWD Arena and Robert Enke raced around the pitch after the match with his precious Lara in his arms. They were wonderful scenes and Robert, a man who didn't smile too often, was positively beaming that day.

Robert Enke
Image: AP

It was fear that eventually drove Robert Enke to suicide. He was scared that if people discovered he suffered from depression, he'd be driven out of football and he worried too that the authorities might take away the daughter which Robert and Teresa had adopted earlier in 2009 and he wanted so badly that they'd be allowed to keep Leila.

Robert Enke hid the secret that he suffered from depression but the illness tormented him and also his desire to be with his daughter Lara again and sure enough he visited her grave before taking the fateful final steps of walking under a speeding train.

The grief and shock within German football was there for all to see and DFB President Theo Zwanziger hoped that it might bring everybody closer together but it hasn't had any lasting affect. Fan violence, bad sportsmanship and coaches losing their jobs are still the order of the day but the passing of Robert Enke did have an affect in that other people who suffer from depression have found it easier now to talk about their affliction.

Robert Enke will be remembered as a fine man and an outstanding goalkeeper.

Interview: Nick Amies
Editor: Andreas Illmer