Updated: November 12, 2009 17:26 IST

Enke follows worrying trend of athletes who have committed suicide

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Robert Enke is the latest sportsperson to end his life willingly. Photo: AP
Robert Enke is the latest sportsperson to end his life willingly. Photo: AP

The local police on Tuesday said that first investigations into the death of German international Robert Enke seemed to indicate that the popular Hannover 96 goalkeeper committed suicide.

Enke, 32, who was favoured to be Germany’s first choice goalkeeper at the World Cup finals in South Africa next year, was killed at a railway crossing near his home early on Tuesday evening. The first investigations into his death appeared to be a suicide according to the police.

This was later confirmed by Enke’s agent Joerg Neblung, who said that the goalkeeper had taken his own life.

Enke’s death came three days after former South African footballer Joseph Rapelego was buried in Soweto outside Johannesburg.

The midfielder, who played with distinction for South African club Moroka Swallows, died last week of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Their deaths are just the latest in a line of high-profile sportspeople who have committed suicide.

Justin Fashanu, the brother of England international John Fashanu, was the first openly gay professional footballer in England, but became an outcast after coming out.

In 1981, the striker became the first black footballer to be transferred for 1 million pounds when he moved from Norwich to Nottingham Forrest.

In 1998, Fashanu hanged himself in London after being questioned by police in the United States in connection with an alleged sexual encounter with a 17-year-old.

In his suicide note, Fashanu wrote: “I realized that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family.”

It later emerged that police had, in fact, dropped the investigation into the sexual contact due to lack of evidence.

Arguably the best-known footballer to die by his own hands was Hungarian striker Sandor Kocsis, who was a member of the Mighty Magyars side, which lost the 1954 World Cup final to Germany.

Kocsis scored 11 of his 68 goals for Hungary at the 1954 finals in Switzerland, becoming the tournament’s top scorer. He moved to Spain after the 1956 uprising in Hungary and became a star in the Barcelona side.

In 1979 he was diagnosed with leukaemia and later stomach cancer and died when he allegedly jumped from a fourth-floor window in a Barcelona hospital, a few months short of his 50th birthday.

South African international striker Abram “Fire” Raselemane was just 30 when he committed suicide in Bloemfontein last year after having scored three goals in 15 matches for his country.

Former Scotland international Hugh Gallacher died in June 1957 a few weeks after an altercation with his young son, by walking in front of an oncoming train, having earlier said that he could not live with the shame of having injured his child.

Another football international who committed suicide was Poland’s Adam Ledwon, who hanged himself in Austria last year.

The 34-year-old played 18 internationals for Poland.

Footballers are, of course, not the only athletes who commit suicide.

Former England wicket-keeper David Bairstow, who played four tests and 21 One Day Internationals for England, died in 1998 after having earlier been hospitalized after a tablet overdose.

Bairstow, who also played football for Bradford City before concentrating on cricket, hanged himself at his home. It is said he suffered from depression.

Another cricketer who ended his own life was South African batsman Laurie Wilmot, who shot himself at his farm in Grahamstown shortly before he was due to begin a 12-year jail sentence for rape.

American basketball player Phil Hankinson, who won an NBA championship ring with the Boston Celtics in 1974, died in 1996 several years after an injury had cut short his NBA career after just two seasons.

For Czech professional ice hockey player Dusan Pasek, who won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics, Slovakia’s disappointing showing at the Olympics in Nagano in 1998 proved too much to bear.

As president of the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation, he felt personally responsible for the performance and shot himself shortly after the Olympics had ended.

Kenneth Carter was the reigning British speedway champion when he killed his wife Pamela and then himself at their farm in 1986, aged just 25.

Another athlete who killed his wife and then himself was Canadian professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who was a two-time world heavyweight champion.

He was due to fight another championship bout on the night of his death and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) officials notified police when Benoit failed to appear for his fight.

When they entered his house, they found his wife and child dead, apparently killed by the wrestler, who had then hanged himself.

Enke, whose two-year-old daughter Lara died of a heart defect three years ago, on Tuesday became the latest in a long list of athletes who died by their own hands.

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