Football Tragedy German National Team Keeper Commits Suicide

He was seen as the favorite to start in goal for Germany at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. But on Tuesday evening, Robert Enke took his own life.

He was one of Germany's best goalkeepers. But now, Robert Enke is dead. The 32-year-old national team player took his own life on Tuesday evening at a train crossing near Hanover, as his friend and advisor Jörg Neblung confirmed late Tuesday.

"I can confirm that it was a case of suicide. Robert killed himself just before 6 p.m.," Neblung said in a short statement.

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15  Photos
Photo Gallery: Robert Enke's Career in Goal
Enke played for the German national team and was seen as a likely choice to start in goal at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. His professional career had been up and down in recent years, seeing him play for FC Barcelona and Fenerbahce in Istanbul before finding success again at Hanover.

The German soccer world has reacted with shock. "We are full of sadness," said Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Association, on Tuesday evening. "Our sympathy goes out to Robert Enke's wife and to his family." Oliver Bierhoff, who manages Germany's national team, said: "We are all under shock. We simply don't know what to say."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had expressed her shock and sympathy in a personal letter to Enke's widow, a government spokesperson said Wednesday.

Lower Saxony Governor Christian Wulff also expressed his sorrow at Enke's death. "Germany has lost an exceptional athlete and a very sensitive person who was an example for many. We mourn him," he said in a statement.

Minute of Silence

Enke apparently threw himself in front of a regional train not far from Hanover. According to a police spokesman, he apparently parked his car near a train crossing, walked several hundred meters down the tracks and stepped out in front of a speeding train. Police say he left behind a suicide note and added that the case would likely be closed later Wednesday.

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12  Photos
Photo Gallery: Football Fans Mourn Death of Enke
In addition to his wife Teresa, Enke leaves behind an eight-month-old daughter Leila, whom the couple adopted in May. The couple's biological daughter Lara died at age two in 2006 after being born with a serious heart condition.

Hundreds of fans gathered in front of the main offices of Enke's team, Hanover 96, on Tuesday evening as well as at the site of Enke's death. FC Barcelona, playing a cup match against Cultural Leonesa on Tuesday evening, observed a minute of silence to honor their former player.

A Checkered Career

Enke's career started with great promise when he became the starting keeper for Borussia Mönchengladbach at the tender age of 22. But in 1998, the team finished near the bottom of the top German league and slid into the second league. The fault, however, did not lie with Enke and he was selected as a backup keeper for the national team in the 1999 Confederations Cup tournament.

In 1999, Enke transferred to Benfica in Lisbon before moving on to FC Barcelona in 2002. But instead of marking a milestone to future success, Enke's stint with Barcelona ended after a poor performance in a cup game. And when he moved on to Fenerbahce Istanbul in 2003, things only got worse. In his first game with his new team, he made a decisive error and was booed by the fans, threatened and showered with beer bottles.

Enke left the team and headed back to Spain where he couldn't find a team that wanted him. He was unemployed. Few teams showed an interest in Enke and he only played sporadically, including with the obscure team CD Tenerife.

It was Ewald Lienen, the trainer of Hanover 96, who gave Enke a second chance, offering him a job in 2004. Before long, Enke was attracting attention with his play and was honored numerous times as Bundesliga keeper of the week.

'I Need Trust'

His future once again seemed bright this fall as national team trainer Joachim Löw hinted numerous times that Enke would be his choice as starting keeper for the 2010 World Cup campaign. Recently, though, Löw had been more reserved in his statements, seeming to prefer opening up the position to competition.

"I need trust," Enke once said. "For me, it is very important that the team and the trainer give me the feeling: Nothing bad can happen with you in the goal."

Enke had a difficult start to this season, having to sit out a number of matches due to a bacterial infection in his intestinal tract. In a recent interview, Enke said that he was eager to get back on the field following his extended illness.

But it is difficult not to recall a different interview, one he gave to the German football magazine 11 Freunde. In that interview, Enke said: "When speaking with the press, I always have two opinions. My personal feelings, and those which I serve to the public."



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