German football star’s suicide came after depression
Berlin -- Germany was in shock on Wednesday after football star Robert Enke, who was set to represent his country at the 2010 World Cup, committed suicide after battling with depression for many years.
Police said goalkeeper Enke threw himself in front of a train at a level crossing in the small town of Neustadt am Rubenberge, near Hanover, shortly before 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Tuesday. He was 32.
The German Football Federation (DFB) announced Saturday’s friendly against Chile in Cologne has been cancelled out of respect — although Enke was not in the squad having only returned from injury last weekend for his club Hanover.
"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 shed tears while delivering the news in a press conference.
Earlier, Enke’s doctor Valentin Markser revealed the player had an acute fear of failure and had been treated for depression since 2003 following a difficult transfer to Barcelona and subsequent loan to Turkish side Fenerbahce.
The Cologne-based doctor said Enke had visited him six weeks ago, suffering from a deep bout of depression — around the same time he lost his place in the Germany team through illness.
"The first time he was treated by me was when he was at Barcelona in 2003," Markser told a press conference in Hanover.
"Six weeks ago, he came to me again, because he had been suffering from a crisis since his training was interrupted in the summer by injury."
His widow Teresa said she had hoped her love would help her husband pull through his crisis.
"I tried to give him hope again, to show him that football was not everything, that we had each other," she told a press conference through the tears.
"I was always by his side: I believed, with love, we could pull through this.
"But football meant everything to him."
The depression first emerged after his 2002 move to Barcelona when he made just one appearance for the Spaniards and he was pelted by his own fans after being loaned to Fenerbahce during their 3-0 defeat to rivals Istanbulspor.
After the game, Enke immediately quit the Turkish club, and his planned one-year loan, to return to Spain in August 2003 when he sought psychiatric treatment.
In 2006, the couple suffered personal tragedy when their two-year-old daughter Lara died of a heart defect. They adopted a baby girl, Leila, just eight months ago.
Hanover police have confirmed Enke left a suicide note, but with respect to the family will not reveal where the note was found, but Enke’s Mercedes was found near to the level-crossing where he took his life.
"He threw himself under a train and died of his injuries. It was definitely suicide," police spokeswoman Martina Stern told AFP.
Joerg Neblung, a close friend and advisor to the eight-times capped goalkeeper, also confirmed that Enke had taken his own life: "I can confirm that it was suicide," he said.
The news has stunned football-mad Germany and chancellor Angela Merkel has contacted Enke’s widow.
"The chancellor has expressed her shock and sympathies today in a very personal letter," Merkel’s spokesman Christoph Steegmans told reporters in Berlin.
Enke, born in Jena in eastern Germany in 1977, was understudy to then first-team keeper Jens Lehmann during the 2008 European championships and took over in goal for Germany when Lehmann retired in August 2008.
Last season, he was voted the best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga.
But an intestinal infection in September caused him to pull out of the national squad two days ahead of their thumping 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Azerbaijan.
This allowed his rival Rene Adler to boost his chances of representing his country in June’s 2010 World Cup finals and Adler was in goal for the 1-0 win over Russia last month which saw Germany book their place in South Africa.
Enke only returned to play for his club Hanover 96 just last Sunday in their 2-2 draw with Hamburg and the shaven-headed shot-stopper declared himself delighted to be fighting fit again.
"It has been a long time, almost a quarter of the season. However, once I resumed training I felt really well," Enke had said.
His death therefore came as a bombshell for those closest to him both personally and professionally.
"I am stunned, I am totally lost for words," said Germany captain Michael Ballack.
A stunned Martin Kind, Enke’s club president, added: "It is a total catastrophe. I am finding it hard to understand."