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Soccer fans in mourning

November 11, 2009

Germany is stunned by the suicide of top goalkeeper Robert Enke. The national player suffered from depression.

A boy lights a candle for Robert Enke
The soccer world was shocked by news of Enke's deathImage: AP

In a press conference on Wednesday, Enke's doctor Valentin Markser said the soccer star had first come to him in 2003 when he was suffering from a fear of failure on the pitch. The doctor said he had been treating the goalkeeper for depression since then and confirmed that Enke had thought about suicide in the past.

The soccer star's widow, Teresa Enke, who also attended the press conference, said her husband experienced phases of depression.

"I wanted to help him get through it," she said. "I tried to be there for him."

But Enke always rejected any suggestion that his depression be treated in a hospital. His widow said he was afraid that in doing so, he would run the risk of losing the couple's adopted daughter.

In his suicide note, Enke is said to have apologized to his family and doctors for his decision to take his life and for not having been honest about the severity of his condition.

A World Cup favorite

Germany's national team have called off their Saturday match against Chile. "We need to be able to take a moment," said Theo Zwanziger, head of the German Soccer Federation (DFB) at an afternoon press conference. "There's no other option," he said, adding that the decision was made by the DFB management in conjunction with the players.

"We thought about playing the game as a farewell to Robert, but it is clear it is too soon after this terrible news," said team manager Oliver Bierhoff, who was visibly upset during the press conference.

Zwanziger said the players were already leaving the training complex and would not reconvene until Sunday when they would train for next Wednesday's match against the Ivory Coast.

Although Enke was considered one of the front-runners for the keeper position on the 2010 World Cup squad, he was forced to miss the last four games for Germany and several matches for Hanover due to an intestinal infection and he had not been selected for Germany's friendly matches against Chile and the Ivory Coast.

Robert Enke playing for the national team
Joachim Loew still favored Enke for the World CupImage: picture-alliance / augenklick/RO

After sitting out for two months, Enke returned to the pitch for Hanover on October 31 against Cologne. His last match in the Bundesliga came just two days before his death, a 2-2 draw against Hamburg.

German national coach Joachim Loew had said it was too early for Enke to return to the squad after his illness. Nevertheless, Loew had indicated that Enke was still his favorite to be Germany's goalkeeper at the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.

The infection, which caused Enke to miss key World Cup qualifying matches, was not the first personal hardship the goalkeeper faced in his lifetime. In 2006 he and his wife suffered a personal tragedy with the death of their then two-year-old daughter due to a rare heart condition.

German soccer mourns

The response from the German soccer community has been both shock and sadness.

Candles in front of a picture of Robert Enke
Candles for the goalkeeperImage: AP

"It is a tragedy," Martin Kind, president of Enke's Bundesliga club Hanover 96, said. "You expect many things, but not something like that.”

DFB's Zwanziger said he was "stunned and full of sadness."

"We send our deepest sympathies to his wife and family. Robert Enke was a wonderful person who had been dealt some tough cards," he said.

FC Barcelona, one of Enke's former clubs, held a minute of silence for the German keeper ahead of their Spanish cup match against Cultural Leonesa on Tuesday night.

In Hanover, hundreds of the team's fans gathered outside the club's stadium to light candles and leave flowers.

"He leaves behind a large hole in our lives, not only in Hanover, but for soccer in Germany," said the team's sports director Joerg Schmadtke.

On Wednesday evening, team colleagues and fans gathered for a service of remembrance in Hanover. Enke's funeral will be held on Sunday. During the next Bundesliga matches a minute of silence will be held and black armbands will be worn in his honor.


Editor: Nigel Tandy/sh