Bundesliga Focus – Enke death rocks Germany

German football has been in a state of shock this week with news of the death of Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke. The 32 year old shot stopper, who was vying to be Germany’s number one at next years World Cup in South Africa, was found dead at a train crossing in Neustadt am Reubenberge on Tuesday evening. It is believed that Enke was struck by a train at the crossing in an incident that Lower Saxony police are treating as a suicide. The news of Enke’s passing has sent shockwaves not just through German football, but the whole of Europe where he was well known having played for numerous top clubs in a career that took him to Spain, Portugal and Turkey in addition to his native Germany. Although the death came as an initial shock, further reflection on his recent years has highlighted the personal problems that many believe led Enke to taking his own life.

It was common knowledge that Robert Enke had been struggling with injury problems in recent times but, in the days following his death, it was revealed at a press conference that Enke had a long standing problem with depression. Dr. Valentin Markser, who had been treating the keeper, said that Enke first came to him with the problem in 2003. Dr. Markser said, “He first received treatment from me during his time at Barcelona. Six weeks ago he came to me because he had been in crisis since the summer training.” That crisis is likely to be the stomach injury that has blighted his start to the current season with Hannover. Enke had missed nearly two months of the domestic season with the problem, and had also missed Germany’s final three qualifiers but was still said to be a strong candidate for Germany’s famous number one jersey – despite stiff competition.

However, Robert Enke’s problems off the field in the past had far outweighed any injury concerns on it. In 2006, Enke and his wife Teresa had to deal with the death of their two year old daughter Lara, who died during an operation. Lara had been born with a severe heart defect and had spent long periods in hospital prior to her death. The heartbreaking death of his only child had to have had a major effect on a man who was already suffering from depression, but it was in the time that followed that Enke really started to have the best years of his career. In an interview in 2008, Enke claimed that the death of his daughter had helped to put things into perspective, saying “I’ve learnt to get my priorities right.” Things looked rosier in May this year when Robert and Teresa adopted a two month old baby named Leila but it seems Enke’s problems hadn’t gone away, culminating in the keeper taking his life on November 10th.

As a result of his death, the DFB (German F.A) have cancelled Saturday’s international friendly in Cologne against Chile. Although Enke was not part of the squad, many of the players called up were close with the Hannover man due to his previous call ups. DFB President Theo Zwanziger said, “We were all agreed that we can’t carry on with the game against Chile on Saturday. We would ask for your understanding that there was no alternative to this decision.” Hannover also cancelled training until Monday with Enke’s team mates in a current state of shock. Their keeper was a hugely popular figure with players and fans alike and was described by many as being in the best form of his much travelled career that saw him play for the likes of Barcelona, Benfica and Fenerbahce. The club will hold a memorial service at their home stadium, the AWD Arena, and club president Martin Kind has hinted that the club may well retire his squad number. Kind said, “At the moment we’re just thinking about it. It’s not decided.”

Tributes have been coming in from all over Europe, with many of Enke’s previous clubs leading the way. Oliver Bierhoff, Germany’s former striker and current General Manager, broke down in tears during a press conference and said, “We are all shocked, we’re speechless.” The sentiment was echoed by a visibly upset Joachim Low, who saw Enke as his number one keeper – a void that will probably be filled by either Rene Adler of Leverkusen or Schalke’s Manuel Neuer. It is another tragic story of a high profile footballer passing away during his prime that will join the list along with the likes of Marc-Vivian Foe, Daniel Jarque and Antonio Puerta. For both Germany and Hannover, he was an irreplaceable asset and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

In other news, it appears Schalke’s financial problems are getting even more unwanted attention after it was revealed that the club is being probed by local authorities on suspicion of delaying bankruptcy proceedings. The Gelsenkirchen outfit are reported to have crippling debts of around 237 million euros and are already being investigated by the DFB to ascertain whether the debt is manageable. It seems an unnamed individual informed the authorities of a potential problem, and Finance board member Peter Peters and club president Josef Schnusenberg are subsequently being investigated. The Schalke duo could face criminal charges, if found guilty, which would only worsen the club’s current plight. It is already being speculated that Schalke could face demotion for their financial situation, if it is deemed unmanageable.

Elsewhere, DFL president Reinhard Rauball has announced the return of the German Super Cup. The season opening competition between the League and Cup champions was scrapped 14 years ago, but is set to return after all Bundesliga member clubs unanimously agreed to the re-introduction of the prestigious Cup. As yet, no official date or location has been arranged for the recommencement of the Super Cup, but it is believed it will begin from the start of next season with Berlin hosting the competition. Rauball admitted the Super Cup has been missed and, in a press release, said “The duel between the Champions and Cup winners is very popular in other European countries and it has a long tradition.”

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