Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke had been suffering from depression, his widow said, one day after the Hannover captain threw himself in front of a train.
|Fans pay tribute to Robert Enke at hannover's Stadium in Germany [GALLO/GETTY]
Speaking at a news conference called by his club, Teresa Enke said her 32-year-old husband was afraid their adopted daughter would be taken away from the family if his illness became public knowledge.
The couple's biological daughter died three years ago from a heart problem she had from birth when she was 2.
"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.''
Mrs. Enke said her husband had been afraid that he would lose "his sport, our private life,'' if his illness had become known.
In May, the couple adopted a girl who is now eight months old.
Enke died Tuesday evening when he threw himself before a train near his Hannover home.
Police said Wednesday they had found a suicide note, with no indications the death was anything but a suicide.
Valentin Markser, a doctor who treated Enke, said the goalkeeper first sought treatment in 2003, when he lost his starting place at 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 been suffering from a bacterial intestinal infection.
In a suicide note, Enke apologised 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.
Enke had declined to stay at a clinic, Markser said.
Enke, who had a good chance of being Germany's top goalkeeper at next year's World Cup in South Africa, 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.
Fans flog to pay respects
Hundreds of Hannover fans queued Wednesday at the club's stadium to pay tribute to Enke.
Hannover set up a condolence book outside the AWD Arena, and some supporters lit candles and left scarves and shirts in tribute to the goalkeeper.
A service was scheduled in the evening, to be followed by a silent march to the stadium.
Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a "very personal'' note to Enke's widow to convey her "consternation and compassion,'' government spokesman Christoph Steegmans said.
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. That's why it's that much more tragic that he saw no way out any longer,'' Bach said.
Enke's death shocked his Germany teammates as they prepared for two international friendlies.
"I'm stunned. I don't know what to say,'' captain Michael Ballack told the Bild daily.
The national team cancelled a training session Wednesday morning and delayed a planned news conference amid reports that one of the friendlies may be scrapped.
Enke had not been selected for Saturday's match in Cologne against Chile 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.
German Football League president Reinhard Rauball, whose organisation runs the Bundesliga, said there would be minute's silence before the next round in the top two divisions on Nov. 21-22 and that all players would wear black armbands.
"We are shaken by the tragic death of Robert Enke,'' Rauball said. "He was an outstanding sportsman and a special person.''
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.
"Robert was a fantastic goalkeeper and teammate,'' Lehmann said.
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 form 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, CD Teneriffa and Fenerbahce, which he left after one game because of a hostile reaction by fans over a poor performance.
He joined Hannover in 2004.
Said Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira: "Sometimes in life we receive news which is so bad that we are stunned, and Robert Enke's death is, without doubt, one of those occasions.''