After years of depression…Germany’s goal keep Robert Enke ended his life…
HANNOVER, Germany (AP) - The suicide death of Robert Enke left Germany stunned Wednesday, sending the football-obsessed country into mourning and leaving the national team without its top goalkeeper at next year’s World Cup.
Enke’s widow appeared at a news conference broadcast live throughout the country, saying her husband battled depression for years before he stepped onto the tracks and got hit by an express train Tuesday evening not far from his home.
“I tried to be there for him,” Teresa Enke said, choking back tears. “When he was acutely depressive, it was a difficult time. We thought we’d manage everything. We thought with love, we could do it. But you can’t.”
Hundreds of people filed into Marktkirche, a Lutheran church, Wednesday evening to attend a religious service and then march silently to Hannover’s stadium to honor Enke, who was the club’s captain.
The service, broadcast live on national television, was conducted by Bishop Margot Kaessmann, the first woman ever elected to lead the nation’s Protestants.
“The death of this athlete shows that football is not everything in our life,” Kaessmann said. “Behind popularity and success there could be profound loneliness and desperation.”
Kaessmann concluded by saying, in English, “You’ll never walk alone.”
Enke’s widow was the first to light a candle.
Germany coach Joachim Loew and captain Michael Ballack were among those attending the service, and the German football federation canceled a friendly against Chile slated for Saturday. Hannover canceled all practice until Monday.
Loew said the national team could not simply go back to business as usual.
“We lost a friend. We deeply mourn Robert Enke,” Loew said. “I feel completely empty. He was a great guy. He had incredible respect for others. We will miss him, as a top-class sportsman and an extraordinary man.”
Enke had a good chance of being Germany’s starting goalkeeper at next year’s World Cup in South Africa. He is the second Germany player known to have suffered from depression. Talented Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Deisler quit football in January 2007 after several bouts of depression and five knee operations.
“I can assure you - we owe Robert Enke that - German football will use all its capabilities to find an answer to the question of how a young athlete celebrated by so many as an idol could land in such a situation,” German football federation president Theo Zwanziger said.
“We need time to come to terms with everything and not superficially.”
National broadcasters prepared special programs dedicated to Enke, who was praised as a generous, involved man who established a foundation to help children with a heart disorder that killed his 2-year-old daughter in 2006.
Enke and his wife adopted a girl in May who is now 8 months old, and Teresa Enke said her husband hid his illness because he was afraid the girl would be taken away from the family if his depression became known.
She said her 32-year-old husband had been afraid that he would lose “his sport, our private life,” if news of his illness became public.
Police said Enke left a suicide note and that there were no indications his death was anything but a suicide.
Valentin Markser, a doctor who treated Enke, said the goalkeeper first sought treatment of depression in 2003, when he lost his starting place at Spanish club Barcelona and developed anxieties and fear of failure.
Enke again sought treatment in early October, after developing a mysterious illness. Doctors took several weeks to determine that he had a bacterial intestinal infection.
In a suicide note, Enke apologized to his family and the staff treating him for deliberately misleading them into believing he was better, “which was necessary in order to carry out the suicide plans,” Markser said.
“Despite daily treatment, we did not succeed in preventing his suicide,” the doctor said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a “very personal” note to Enke’s widow to convey her “consternation and compassion,” government spokesman Christoph Steegmans said. Many other top politicians sent their sympathies.
Thomas Bach, president of the German Olympic committee, called Enke’s death “really tragic.”
“When you see how many blows of destiny he had to overcome in the past years, how he always carried on and stood up, that shows his human qualities,” Bach said. “That’s why it’s that much more tragic that he saw no way out any longer.”
Enke had not been selected for Saturday’s match and Wednesday’s game against Ivory Coast in Gelsenkirchen because he had only recently returned from the intestinal infection and had played only two Bundesliga games since then.
The illness had kept him sidelined for nine weeks and forced him to miss four Germany games.
Enke made his national team debut in a 1-0 loss to Denmark in March 2007. His last game was a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Aug. 12. He also played 196 Bundesliga games.
After Jens Lehmann retired following last year’s European Championship, Enke was promoted to No. 1 for Germany but was slowed by a broken hand.
In Barcelona, one of his former clubs, president Joan Laporta said, “I knew him personally and he was a very well educated, correct guy. Barcelona is in mourning over the death of Robert Enke.”
Enke first sought help when he was blamed for Barcelona’s loss to a second-division team in his debut and was dropped from the first team by then coach Louis van Gaal, now in charge at Bayern Munich. Enke, who was born in the former East German city of Jena and started his career there, also played for Borussia Moenchengladbach, Benfica, Tenerife and Fenerbahce, which he left after one game because of a hostile reaction by fans over a poor performance. He joined Hannover in 2004.