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Thousands pay respects to German football star

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 12 Nov 2009

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Around 35,000 people took part in a solemn procession through central Hanover to pay their respects to Robert Enke, the star goalkeeper who committed suicide this week, police said on Thursday.

Fans marched on Wednesday night from a memorial service in the centre of the western German city to the Hannover 96 stadium where Enke played. Outside the ground there were large numbers of candles, flowers and cards.

Enke, 32, threw himself under a train on Tuesday evening in a small town near Hanover. It emerged on Wednesday that he had been suffering from depression for several years.

“I tried to give him hope again, to show him that football was not everything, that we had each other,” his tearful widow Teresa told the press on Tuesday,

“I was always by his side: I believed, with love, we could pull through this. But football meant everything to him.”

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.

Enke was understudy to Germany’s then first-team keeper Jens Lehmann during the 2008 European championships and took over in goal for Germany when Lehmann retired in August 2008.

A stomach bug in September caused him to pull out of the national squad, but last Sunday he returned to play for his club and he had a good chance of being selected for next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

“I am completely shocked and absolutely empty,” national coach Joachim Loew said.

“Robert was not only a talented player, but also a great person … He could really listen and treated everyone with unbelievable respect.”

“His death is an immense loss and we will miss him, as both a high-class sportsman and an exceptional person.”

Germany’s friendly against Chile on Saturday has been cancelled as a mark of respect.

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