Column about ball and the world: enlightened public, where are you?

Manuel Neuer has a strange view of his biography. Only what fits the image created by PR consultants is accepted as authentic.

Knows the score: Manuel Neuer. Photo: dpa

This is how sports journalism shifts. "A biography about me is to be published in the next few days," Manuel Neuer tells the people he calls "my fans," adding that "I don’t know the author and he doesn’t know me." And further: "The truth content could therefore be doubtful." Therefore.

In fact, two books about Neuer are being published these days: One will feature private details, such as background information on the breakup with his long-term girlfriend. The other deals explicitly with the goalkeeper Neuer, how he has developed athletically, what his view of soccer is, and what significance his very modern positional play has in current professional soccer.

Not having spoken to Neuer is certainly a shortcoming in both cases – more so in the case of the tabloid work than in the case of the soccer theory work. (In order to be able to distinguish between them, they are briefly mentioned here: The book about the private life is by Alexander Kords and is called: "Manuel Neuer. Biography", CBX publishing house. The book on the professional side is by Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling and is called "Neuer. Der Welttorhuter," published by Die Werkstatt).

But are you only allowed to write about someone when that someone is talking to you? You don’t have to think of biographies of Bismarck or Kaiser Wilhelm to realize that in many cases this is not possible. The very fact that a celebrity refuses to talk to a journalist would prevent a critical view of him. And even after interviews, the so-called authorization of the quoted statements is common.

PR babble

In a recent interview with Manuel Neuer in the German soccer magazine Kicker, he was quoted as saying about his choice of advertising partners: "Allianz, for example, stands for support, as I do as a goalkeeper. Coke Zero stands for Zu-null, which I always want to create; Sony for the sharpness of the image, which I also need." No one believes that this smarmy advertising prose should have occurred to Neuer in conversation.

So we are faced with the phenomenon that not even what a newcomer actually said is considered the truth anymore (which in itself is a ludicrous notion), but rather that only what Neuer’s PR consultants formulate in such a way that it fits the professional’s elaborate image is accepted as an authentic statement.

Something like this actually passes muster with editors, publishers and readers. Only the "authorized biography" promises publishers sales opportunities for a book. Where an enlightened public would prefer a critical and independent approach to a prominent personality, the local market trusts more in the feigned authenticity.

Neither new nor newer

This is neither new nor new. Even before his conviction, his former boss Uli Hoeneb complained that journalists were looking into his tax crime. "There are five books being written about me, all these people have not exchanged a word with me," he said to thunderous applause from Bayern members. "It won’t be about informing, no, they want to make coal – and that’s sacrilegious."

One of the books he criticized is called "The Hoeneb File. Portrait of a potentate" and comes from Thilo Komma-Pollath (CBX publishing house). He did what a journalist has to do: Talked to as many people as possible who can provide information. Komma-Pollath is not concerned with private matters and affairs. He tries to trace how Hoeneb was able to gain such power that he could only be dealt with by means of criminal law.

Neuer is not Hoeneb, and no one claims anything similar. But the matter-of-factness with which everyone – both those being written about and those who might read it – insists that only what has been previously softened by the sitter is true does point in a strange direction.