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German football in mourning

BERLIN, Nov 11 – Germany was in shock on Wednesday after football star Robert Enke, who was set to represent his country at the 2010 World Cup, committed suicide by throwing himself under a train.ROBERT_ENKEPolice said goalkeeper Enke had killed himself at a level crossing in the small town of Neustadt am Rubenberge, near Hanover, shortly before 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Tuesday. He was 32.

He leaves behind a widow, Teresa, and a daughter of eight months, Leila, adopted by the couple in May – three years after their two-year-old daughter Lara tragically died of a heart defect in 2006.

"He threw himself under a train and died of his injuries. It was definitely suicide," police spokeswoman Martina Stern told AFP.

Joerg Neblung, a close friend and advisor to the eight-times capped goalkeeper, also confirmed that Enke had taken his own life: "I can confirm that it was suicide," he said.

Enke, born in Jena in eastern Germany in 1977, was understudy to then first-team keeper Jens Lehmann during the 2008 European championships and took over in goal for Germany when Lehmann retired in August 2008.

He was voted the Bundesliga’s goalkeeper of the season in 2008/09 and won eight caps for his country.

But an intestinal infection in September caused him to pull out of the national squad two days ahead of their thumping 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Azerbaijan.

This allowed his rival Rene Adler to boost his chances of representing his country in June’s 2010 World Cup finals and Adler was in goal for the 1-0 win over Russia last month which saw Germany book their place in South Africa.

Enke only returned to play for his club Hanover 96 just last Sunday in their 2-2 draw with Hamburg and the shaven-headed shot-stopper declared himself delighted to be fighting fit again.

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"It has been a long time, almost a quarter of the season. However, once I resumed training I felt really well," Enke had said.

His death therefore came as a bombshell for those closest to him both personally and professionally.

"We’re in shock. I don’t know what to say," said national manager Oliver Bierhoff, who along with head coach Joachim Loew, informed Enke’s international team-mates of the tragedy.

With Germany preparing for their friendly against Chile this weekend, Loew cancelled training on Wednesday and Enke’s club president Martin Kind was left stunned by the news.

"It is a total catastrophe. I am finding it hard to understand," said Kind.

Later around 300 of the club’s fans and several of his club-mates gathered outside the club’s offices as a mark of respect on Tuesday night with many laying down bouquets of flowers and lighting candles.

Large numbers of people were also present outside the ground on Wednesday morning to pay their respects.

Enke had also at one time been linked with a move to German giants Bayern Munich where the former German Under-21 international Michael Rensing had not impressed in his first season between the posts.

However, Uli Hoeness, Bayern’s general manager, had made clear they were not interested in paying the 10 million euro (15 million dollar) transfer fee.

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Several German football pundits had advised Enke, who had previously had spells at Benfica, Barcelona and Tenerife, to leave Hanover for a more prestigious club and one that was playing in European club competition so he would improve his chances of becoming German Number One.

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