Werder Bremen defender Robert Bauer has spoken about the impact that pressure can have on players. His comments are the latest on what remains a taboo subject in football.
Footballers have everything. Fame, fortune and the chance at glory. However, more and more often the impact of pressure is being spoken about, as many in and around the game observe the negative impacts that the sport's growing importance can have on an individual.
In Monday's edition of Germany's most-read sports publication kicker, one Bundesliga player has spoken out about how difficult life can be under the spotlight.
"Of course we're privileged. We earn a lot of money, probably far too much, but you can't forget that we are still people. People with feelings, thoughts, abilities and fears," Werder Bremen's Robert Bauer told the paper. "It's about not judging footballers based on their weaknesses," the defender, who won silver in Rio with Germany's 2016 Olympic team added.
The 23-year-old said that in his younger years he dreamed of playing in a full stadium, being famous and successful, but that he never gave a second thought to the pressure involved.
"The reactions after a bad game, public opinion and remarks when things aren't going well – from the media and the fans – I never thought it could be so extreme," Bauer said. He said he felt that he can handle criticism because he sees a clear separation between the player and the person.
The defender fears more for his parents, who are not prepared for handling the pressure they see on their son. It is through them that Bauer understands what it is to work hard for one's money because they came to Germany from the Soviet Union and had to struggle to get by.
"I would never consider myself superior to another human being just because I was a footballer. Quite the opposite. I know that side of life," Bauer said.
Enke tragedy a lesson not learned
For Bauer, the aftermath of Robert Enke's suicide was the first time footballers were also seen as humans, but that since then everything has been forgotten.
"It's like it was before, if not worse. You hardly read good, positive headlines anymore. Everyone wants to write something negative because it sells better."
These comments come a month after former Werder Bremen player Per Mertesacker told Der Spiegel that the pressure ate away at him during his career – something he plans to change when he starts work in Arsenal's academy next season.
"I chatted to a few lads after Mertesacker's revelations," Bauer said. "Everyone knows it's an extremely sensitive topic, because so often the argument follows: 'Footballers earn so much money, they shouldn't complain...' But the money factor needs to be put to one side if you're looking at this topic... because if you're unhappy, all that money doesn't help."
Many professional football clubs now have psychologists on their staff to help players through difficult situations. Bauer believes this is a big positive, adding that many players in Bremen make use of that help.
In speaking out about the taboo topic, the Werder Bremen defender hopes his comments will encourage others to step forward because it can be a "freeing" process. Bauer's final words in the interview reveal a startling change that football must heed: "See the person behind the footballer."