Ilja Kaenzig, who previously worked at Hannover 96 when Per Mertesacker was at the club, says the German’s recent comments are ‘a kind of coming out’ and should serve as ‘a warning’.
Kaenzig was business manager at Hannover from 2004 to 2006, the period during which Mertesacker broke into the team.
After hearing the recent interview with the centre-back about his pre-match anxiety, the 44-year-old told Blick we need to take the words seriously.
“It’s a kind of coming-out, a warning that we can’t turn the screw in football,” he said.
“There is increasing pressure in the media and on social networks. We hide the fact that players and coaches are people who can’t always be in a good mood, and who react emotionally. Football increasingly uses science, but it’s about people.”
“The pressure he withstood during the World Cup is incomprehensible to outsiders. A World Cup in their own country, everyone demands the title. On behalf of Hannover 96, we congratulated Per on the quarter-final win against Argentina. He only replied that he needed absolute calm and concentration.
“That must have been focus beyond the psychic pain threshold. At some point you will only be happy when it is over.”
There’s certainly something in Kaenzig’s words about the way we treat footballers.
Often, we don’t think of them as people, but just as players on the pitch. That’s clear whenever you log onto social media and see the abuse hurled at anyone who makes a mistake.
The way people justify treating players badly is often by pointing to the money they make, as if being rich helps prevent mental health issues.
We should know by now that’s not the case, looking at the likes of Chester Bennington and Robin Williams, to name just two.
In Mertesacker’s case, the pressure should lift when he calls time on his career at the end of the season.
I’m sure managing the academy will bring new stresses, but hopefully not the levels experienced playing in front of the entire planet at the World Cup.