Theo Zwanziger

Memorial Speech at the Commemoration Ceremony for Robert Enke

delivered 15 November 2009, AWD-Arena, Hannover, Germany


Audio mp3 of Address


German Version

Dear Mrs. Enke, dear family members, dear grieving community, dear fans from Hannover 96: Thank you for coming.

We have gathered here to say farewell to Robert Enke.

The pictures from this week and from the past few days remain before our eyes, mine and yours. This inconceivable news from Tuesday evening, not exactly knowing what had happened, not even being able to conceive it. And the next day -- the talks with our national soccer players: How are we going to continue? What can we do? Boys, I am proud of you! There is a season of sorrow that we need to cope with this.

The press conference this afternoon was out of great respect for you, Mrs. Enke, for what you believed you could do for your husband and, I think, also for us. The media pictures of the scene of the accident shocked us all. The sympathy for all those involved and yet not [personally] involved: the engine drivers, the rescue workers, the police, which all had to provide their professional service; and then in the evening the funeral service here in Hannover. For the willing spontaneity of the people in this city, the fans of Hannover 96, and the fans of Robert Enke, thank you. The pictures change -- sometimes they become more powerful, other times they fade. Time will go by. Life will begin anew.

But in my mind's eye are also two sentences, uttered by bishops of the Protestant Church. One of them was delivered Wednesday evening from Bishop Käßmann: “Soccer is not everything!” Soccer, my dear ladies and gentlemen, dear grieving community, must not be everything. The life that has been given to us is multifaceted. It is interesting. It is worth living. We can be a little proud of what we do. We can accomplish things. But we reach fulfillment only and always in diversity and community.

Soccer must not be everything, dear parents. When you think about whether your children can become national soccer players, do not think only about the perceived appearance, widely propagated through the media. Think also about what is inside a person -- the frailty and doubts. Soccer is not everything.

German Version

But, ladies and gentlemen, there is also the other sentence. Three and half years ago, the soccer world championship began with a church service in Munich. At that time, the sun started -- just like here, and today -- to oust the fog and rain, when Bishop Huber said: “Soccer is an important part of life”. Yes, soccer can be an important part of life, provided that we don’t pursue optimum performance obsessively. We are allowed to make an effort, yes, but not at any cost -- because the real reward cannot be received on this earth. We have to prove ourselves worthy of it.

To think a little bit more about the dignity of man in all its diversity after these horrible days, not only about their strengths but also about their weaknesses, is for me the only driving consequence of this otherwise useless death.

Dear grieving community, we all are called upon to reshape our life, to find its meaning not in overzealous ambition. Balance, limitations, virtues, like fair play and respect, are to be sought after in every part of the [soccer] system: on the level of  the functionaries, the level of the DFB, within the soccer clubs, even for me and also for you, dear fans.

You can contribute enormously to this development if you are willing to rise against the evil, if you are willing to point out when injustice happens, if you are willing to oppose the cartel of keeping secrets and taboos in our society. In the presence of these, society cannot be considered human. You can help with your very own and very personal commitment.

When I think about how I got to know you here in Hannover -- not just you here but all the other fans at other stadiums of the Bundesliga, as well as those at the amateur level --  a little more humanity, a little more moral courage, a little more focus on the dignity of man, on our brother, on the Other -- that would be what Enke would have wanted; that would do him justice.

Thank you for your attention.

German Version

Research Note #1: This text transcribed directly from audio by Heidrun Ferguson and Michael E. Eidenmuller

Research Note #2: Thanks to Jens Bugnowski for bringing this speech to my attention.

Audio and Images #1 and  #2 (Screenshots) Source:

Page Updated: 11/29/22

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