Germany bids farewell to footballer Robert Enke

Germany bids farewell to footballer Robert Enke
Photo: DPA
About 40,000 mourners gathered Sunday to bid farewell to the late footballer Robert Enke at the Hannover 96 stadium, where Enke’s coffin was laid on the centre of the pitch during tearful speeches and music performances.

The Hannover 96 and German national team goalkeeper killed himself on Tuesday after suffering depression for years.

Enke’s widow Teresa sat with family and friends on the sidelines of the pitch on a specially constructed podium.

National captain Michael Ballack and teammate Per Mertesacker laid a wreath for Enke. The entire national team then took turns bowing their heads before the wooden coffin, which was surrounded with flowers, including a heart made from white roses.

A schoolgirl sang “Old Love,” the club anthem of Hannover 96, which was followed by gentle applause.

German Football Association (DFB) president Theo Zwanziger appealed in his speech for people to look beyond football and consider wider humanity.

“Don’t think only about the brightness but also about the doubt and frailty in people,” he said.

Competition had to be balanced by respect and fairplay, he said.

It has been widely discussed, including by Enke’s father, that the footballer suffered extreme fear and anxiety about his performance on the football field, which probably contributed to his depression.

Lower Saxony Premier Christian Wulff praised the strength of Enke’s widow Teresa.

“What you have gone through, we can only imagine,” he said. “The warm-hearted applause has shown that we are with you.”

The memorial was also attended by national coach Joachim Löw and countless top football officials, players and former players, from Germany and abroad. It was broadcast live by five television stations.

Legendary German player Franz Beckenbauer, former national coach Jürgen Klinsmann and former top women’s player Steffi Jones were also there, as were Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

After a prayer by Catholic Priest Heinrich Plochg, Enke’s casket was carried out of the stadium to the music of Bette Midler’s “The Rose”, followed by the football anthem, “You’ll never walk alone.”

Enke was to be laid to rest in a private funeral later Sunday in the cemetery outside Hannover where his two-year-old daughter, who died in 2006 of a rare heart condition, is also buried.

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