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Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009

Thousands of fans bid farewell to Enke

HANOVER, Germany (AP) More than 45,000 fans gathered Sunday at the Hanover stadium for a memorial service for Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke, whose suicide has shaken the country.

"Robert Enke will never come back to this stadium, the place where he conquered our hearts," Hanover club president Martin Kind said at the beginning of the ceremony. "But it wasn't only his success that made Robert Enke so popular, it was the man, his personality."

The 32-year-old player, who played for Hannover 96 and had a good chance of being Germany's starting goalkeeper at next year's World Cup in South Africa, stepped in front of a train near his Hanover home on Tuesday evening. His widow, Teresa, appeared on national television a day later to say her husband had been suffering from depression for six years but did not want it known.

Enke's coffin was covered with white roses and was placed in the center of the field. German politicians and sports stars were also at the memorial, where many of the fans wore black and the club's green, white and black scarf.

Before the start of the ceremony, the fans stood and applauded when Teresa Enke walked to the coffin together with a friend. Several members of the German national team also approached the coffin to say goodbye to their teammate.

In a country riveted by soccer, Enke's death has prompted a debate about whether players receive sufficient psychological support.

Teresa Enke said her husband had kept his depression secret from the public because he had been afraid the couple's adopted 8-month-old daughter would be taken away from them if his illness was known. The couple's biological daughter, Lara, died of a heart ailment in 2006 when she was 2.

Enke's father told weekly magazine Spiegel on Sunday that his son had suffered for a long time.

"I think that his disease did not arise from something inside of him, but was triggered by his life's circumstances," said Dirk Enke, a psychotherapist, who said he tried to talk to his son several times but could not get him to talk about his depression.

In a farewell note, Enke apologized 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," said Valentin Markser, his doctor.

Enke's struggle with depression was not known to his teammates or coaches.

At the end of the ceremony, as Enke's coffin was carried out by his Hannover 96 teammates, many crying fans raised their club scarves.

"During the last days, there was only emptiness and sadness," said Thomas Brauns, 42. "It happened so suddenly. Last Sunday we still saw the game, applauded him . . . and two days later he throws himself in front of the train."

FIFA bans Maradona

ZURICH (AP) FIFA handed Argentina coach Diego Maradona a two-month ban from all soccer activities on Sunday for his expletive-filled rants after his team qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

Maradona will miss Argentina's exhibition against the Czech Republic scheduled for Dec. 16, but he avoided sanctions that would have kept him from coaching at next year's World Cup in South Africa. He also was fined $24,250.

A disciplinary panel for world soccer's governing body heard the 49-year-old coach give evidence during a three-hour hearing on Sunday before excluding him from soccer until Jan. 15.

FIFA said Maradona apologized to the world soccer family during his 40-minute appearance before the panel, which had the authority to ban him from World Cup matches in South Africa next year.

"The committee took into consideration the apologies, and the sincere remorse shown by Maradona, in its decision," FIFA said in a statement.

Van Persie shelved

LONDON (AP) Arsenal striker Robin van Persie expects to be out for up to six weeks after tests in Holland confirmed that he tore ankle ligaments after a robust challenge from Giorgio Chiellini during a friendly between the Netherlands and Italy on Saturday night.

The game ended 0-0.

"I have had a scan. I am probably out for between four and six weeks," van Persie told Dutch television program Studio Voetbal on Sunday night.

But the in-form 26-year-old absolved Juventus defender Chiellini of blame, saying: "There was no intent."

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