Thousands gather to honour Enke

HANOVER - Tens of thousands of fans joined family, friends and team-mates of Robert Enke to pay their last respects to the Germany goalkeeper on Sunday, five days after his suicide shocked the country and football fans worldwide.

At a memorial service at the Hanover 96 ground where Enke played his club football, 45,000 people, including Germany team-mates and coaches dressed in black, watched as Enke's coffin was placed in the middle of the pitch.

"Robert Enke will never come back to this stadium where he conquered our hearts," Hanover president Martin Kind said in a brief speech. "You were a number one in the real sense of the word. This is why our hearts are so heavy."

Enke took his own life at the age of 32, throwing himself in front of a train on Tuesday after battling depression for years.

Fans in Germany and across the world were deeply touched by his death, which came three years after his own daughter had died, aged two, because of a heart problem.

His wife Teresa cried as she stood in front of a coffin that had been covered in white flowers, with a string quartet adding to the sombre mood on a crisp and sunny day. The pair had adopted a baby girl in May.

Thousands more stood in silence outside the stadium as candles and flowers covered the entrance to the club offices. As the coffin was driven away, the anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' was sung amid roaring applause.


Enke, who had been suffering from depression since 2003, made his breakthrough at Borussia Moenchengladbach and went on to captain Benfica in Portugal before having an unsuccessful spell at Barcelona.

He moved to Fenerbahce in Turkey before a transfer to Tenerife back in Spain helped him rebuild his career. He returned to the Bundesliga with Hanover and finally made his Germany debut in 2007.

He went on to win eight caps and was on his way to establishing himself as the number one German keeper after a decade in the shadows of Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann.

Injuries and illness conspired to stall his international career, however, and after missing recent World Cup qualifiers his starting position was again in doubt.

"Football is not everything," German Football Association chief Theo Zwanziger told the crowd on Sunday. "Football must not be everything."

A minute's silence has been observed in several matches in the past days including Barcelona's Spanish Cup tie, and the European Under-21 qualifier between England and Portugal on Saturday, impeccably observed by about 35,000 fans.

Germany cancelled a friendly match they had been due to play against Chile on Saturday.

Barcelona representatives, among officials from other clubs, were also in the Hanover Arena on Sunday as were politicians, including former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Enke will be laid to rest next to his daughter's grave at a cemetery near Hanover.