German referee attempts suicide before match

German referee Babak Rafati tried to commit suicide hours before he was due to take charge of Saturday's Bundesliga game between Cologne and Mainz 05 but is out of danger and in a stable condition, police and the German football association said.

The 41-year-old, who has been a DFB referee since 1997 and led Bundesliga games since 2005, failed to show up for the fixture, and Cologne police said he was found by his assistants in his hotel room bath tub with his wrists sliced.

"Rafati is out of danger. He is in a stable condition," a visibly shaken DFB President, Theo Zwanziger, told reporters inside Cologne stadium after the referee was taken to Cologne's Eduardus hospital.

"Once he did not show up for breakfast and then for the pre-game talk, because he is always on time, [the assistant referees] tried to reach him by phone in his room," Zwanziger said, describing how Rafati was found.

"They went up and found the door locked. They knocked, no one opened, then they quickly opened the door with the help of hotel staff. They told me what they found.

"I would ask you to save me from giving out details. He was in the bath tub - obviously there was a lot of blood.

"If after these few hours his prognosis is that he is out of danger, then the [assistant referees] are to thank for that."

He said it was unclear what had triggered the suicide attempt. Rafati and his assistant had been together on Friday evening at the hotel.

"I think the most important news is that, health-wise, Babak Rafati is stable," Zwanziger said. "Obviously he will be in [intensive care] in the coming days and will need intensive treatment."

Zwanziger said police had ruled out any third-party involvement and had found notes, which were being evaluated.

ENKE SUICIDE

The attempted suicide brought back memories of the 2009 suicide of then first-choice Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke following his years-long battle with depression.

Zwanziger said: "I can only explain it [Rafati's attempted suicide]... that the pressure on the referees as in professional sport is immense and we just fail to find the right balance."

The news spread as teams prepared for action on Saturday afternoon.

"I found out half an hour before kick-off," said VfL Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath. "I was stunned, especially because Babak Rafati is a well-liked referee. I hope to see him soon in the Bundesliga again."

Schalke 04 coach Huub Stevens said he understood why the game was called off.

"I cannot believe that something like that can happen," he told reporters. "I have absolutely no words. Obviously no one can play after such a thing."

Cologne had earlier said the game was called off because they could not find another referee to deputise and did not reveal the reasons in a public announcement to some 20,000 fans already in the stadium.

"The referee, Babak Rafati, did not show up and it was impossible to find a replacement at short notice," Cologne spokesman Tobias Schmidt said.

Rafati, a banker of Iranian descent, has refereed 84 Bundesliga matches since making his debut in 2005 in the same match he was due to lead on Saturday, Cologne against Mainz 05.