Happier days: With Louis Van Gaal at Barca
From what one can gather, Robert Enke kept a terrible secret.
He hid his depression to himself, fearful if it became public, his adopted daughter would be taken away, he would lose his sport, and his family destroyed.
As his widow, Teresa says, “I tried to be there for him.”
“When he was acutely depressive, it was a difficult time. We thought we’d manage everything. We thought with love, we could do it. But you can’t.”
Enke’s depression seems to have begun while at Barcelona under Louis Van Gaal, Bayern’s present manager.
He had arrived in 2002 from Benfica where he was a fan favourite and team captain under Jupp Heynckes. Enke’s strong performances had attracted wide attention even as Benfica struggled on the pitch and financially as well. Plenty of clubs came knocking including Arsenal, Man Utd, and Atletico before he signed for Barca on a three year contract. Enke’s dream of playing for one of the game’s giants had come true.
But it all went terribly wrong in his debut as minnows CF Novelda humiliated Barca, 3-2 in the Copa Del Rey. His performance came in for strong criticism from captain Frank De Boer and other players. Enke was to lose his starting place.
As his psychiatrist Dr. Valentin Markser reveals, ” For the first time he experienced rejection and public criticism. During this time, he began to doubt himself.”
Enke was soon loaned out to Fenerbahçe coached by Christoph Daum in exchange for fan favourite Rüştü Reçber. It proved to be an unpopular move with fans. The simmering discontent came to a boil when the club lost to local rivals Istanbulspor, 0-3 in Enke’s first match. He was forced to run from the pitch as fans pelted him with bottles and cigarette lighters.
The Barca and Fenerbahçe experience seem to have taken a mental toll with Enke becoming increasingly depressive and fearing further failure. He began treatment under Dr Makser in the summer of 2003 which went on every day for the next several months. Thereafter, his mood stabilized and he returned to Barca for a successful loan spell at CD Tenerife which led to an eventual Bundesliga homecoming when he signed on for Hannover 96 in 2004.
Things looked very promising as he became a Hannover 96 stalwart and his impressive performances earned him two Bundesliga best goalkeeper titles. But Enke was soon overwhelmed by a personal tragedy. In 2006, Enke was confronted with his biggest crisis: His infant daughter’s death of a congenital heart condition. He became severely depressed requiring treatment once again.
Things began looking up last year after Jens Lehmann’s retired following Euro 2008. Joachim Low elevated him to first choice goalie for the national team. He and his wife Teresa adopted an 8 month daughter Leila last May. Yet again, Enke had to undergo a series of crises, as a broken scaphoid requiring surgery sidelined him for two months pushing his national appearance to January 2009. In August an intestinal bacteria forced him out for more than two months and he ended up missing four WC qualifiers.
In his suicide note, Enke said he was sorry that he misled his family and the medical personnel into believing he was better. It is quite possible that he believed it would be a matter of time before another crisis confronted him. This would indeed be his life, the silver lining beneath the dark cloud was becoming harder to see or believe in.