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Deisler’s teenage dream turns sour

Berlin: Sebastian Deisler was hailed as the future of German soccer when still in his teens but struggling to fulfil the soccer-mad nation’s dreams has turned his life into a nightmare.

The discreet, almost shy boy who was approached by Real Madrid at 17 is now a 23-year-old man suffering from depression and not knowing when he will be able to play football again.

After fighting to overcome 15 serious injuries and five knee operations, the gifted midfielder appeared to be making his breakthrough with a string of brilliant recent displays for Bayern Munich.

But the pressure weighing heavily on his frail shoulders added to the fact that his Brazilian partner, Eunice, was going through a difficult pregnancy proved too much.

“It is a typical case of depression which is the result of the combination of several factors, with not only the pressure from the outside world but also the pressure that he put on himself,” said Florian Holsboer, who heads the Munich psychiatric institute where Deisler is being treated.

Bayern said last week they had convinced Deisler to consult Holsboer after he told them he needed help.

Deisler now stays at a single room in a grey seven-storey building in Munich, with a doctor available for whenever he needs him. His expensive German car is parked outside.

He is allowed to receive visitors but has told his club that for the moment, he would rather not see anybody from Bayern. It is all a far cry from the fame and glamour promised to him years ago but which he never asked for nor was prepared to take.

After making his Bundesliga debut as an 18-year-old with Borussia Moenchengladbach in 1998, Deisler played for Germany for the first time two years later and looked set for even greater things when he joined Bayern from Hertha Berlin in July last year.

His unique skills and ability to read the game suggested he could become a special player but his body was already letting him down.

One of several nasty knee injuries made him miss last year’s World Cup and he hardly played at all during his first season at Bayern because he was never fully fit.

Apart from injury problems, Deisler was also being presented as a potential all-time great and having his private life constantly exposed in the popular press.

“I just want to play football,” he said during his time at Hertha. “I’ve become somebody I never wanted to be.”

At Bayern, he did not talk to the other players or the club’s bosses too much and made only one real friend in Mehmet Scholl. It was Scholl, who was also once described as a teenage wonder and became a target for the mass-selling newspapers, partly because of his good looks, who introduced him to Buddhism.

But religion alone could not bring Deisler the inner peace he so desperately needed. His Bayern bosses, meanwhile, kept the pressure on.

“Now it’s time for him to break through,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said in April. “He must believe in himself more than he does.”

In recent weeks he had appeared to be eventually delivering and a series of inspired performances won him praise from Hitzfeld as well as earning him a return to the national team.

Then came the latest, and arguably most painful blow.

“It can be over in a few weeks but it could also last a long time,” Holsboer said.

“But football has always been everything for him, and still is,” he said. (Reuters)

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