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Enke's widow: Players need support

Robert Enke’s widow has called for football to do more to recognise the pressures on footballers.

Hannover players display a banner in tribute to the late Robert Enke
Robert Enke's death raised questions about the support offered to professional footballers.

Enke committed suicide on November 10, 2009, suffering from a depression. At the time of his death, the Hannover goalkeeper had been a contender to be Germany’s No. 1 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

In early 2010, his widow, Teresa, worked with the German FA (DFB), the German Football League (DFL) and Hannover to establish the Robert Enke Foundation, which promotes public awareness of depression and also the fight against heart disease in children.

Speaking to dfb.de as she prepares to set foot into a football stadium for the first time since his death when Germany host Ireland on Friday night, she has spoken of the importance of identifying mental issues.

Stressing the need to give professional footballers clear opportunities to get help, she said: “We especially have to train the coaches to spot the pressure for young footballers -- the moment when it all gets too much.

“It has become more and more important for the professional clubs to deal with sports psychologists and sports psychiatrists. Motivation is not enough. For instance, the Enke Foundation wants to see more attention given to preventing these mental health issues in the youth academies.”

Teresa, who said her work with the foundation helps her to come to terms with her past, feels young players can struggle when they are initially praised only to then be dropped.

“The young professional suddenly earns a lot of money, maybe even drops out of school, is hyped and everyone kisses his feet,” she said. “But once they fail to perform, it all ends -- in one fell swoop at that. Suddenly he is only a number.

“Robert had to deal with this experience. He had people to turn to -- he had a family, he had finished school, got his grades. He had me. He was able to start his career in his native Germany, but this moment -- first the hype and then you are gone.

“If you don’t have any assistance at that time and have to come to terms with it all by yourself, it gets extremely difficult. And it’s not only about psychologists and psychiatrists. The clubs have to offer the young talents the right people around them. All of that still does not replace the self-responsibility. If you don’t have anything but football and that breaks away then everything’s gone.”

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