November 10, 2017 17:21 GMT by dailymail.co.uk

Per Mertesacker writes emotional blog about Robert Enke

Per Mertesacker writes emotional blog about Robert Enke

Ex-Benfica goalkeeper Robert Enke took his own life at the age of 32 when, on November 10, 2009, he stepped out in front of a train in Neustadt am Rubenberge in Germany.

Per Mertesacker has paid an emotional tribute to his former friend and team-mate Robert Enke on the eighth anniversary of his tragic suicide.

Ex-Benfica goalkeeper Enke took his own life at the age of 32 when, on November 10, 2009, he stepped out in front of a train in Neustadt am Rubenberge in Germany.

Enke, who was a Germany international and had also played for Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach, suffered with depression following the death of his daughter, Lara, from a heart condition in 2006.

Per Mertesacker (R) celebrates with Robert Enke after a win for Hannover in December 2005

Per Mertesacker (R) celebrates with Robert Enke after a win for Hannover in December 2005

Enke gestures while in goal for Germany less than three months before he committed suicide

Enke gestures while in goal for Germany less than three months before he committed suicide

Mertesacker had just broken into the Hannover team when Enke joined the club on a permanent deal from Barca in 2004.

And the Arsenal defender, who also played alongside Enke for the German national team, has remembered the profound impact his team-mate had on his early career.

Writing in a guest contribution for Enke's wife Theresa's blog, Mertesacker admits that the trust the goalkeeper put in helped dispel any doubts he had as an up-and-coming centre back. 

Mertesacker wrote: 'I was a 19-year-old freshman who had just completed his first Bundesliga games when Robert entered our locker room at Hannover 96 in the summer of 2004 and greeted me: "Ah, hello, and you're the Per." 

'He came from Spain, he had played for FC Barcelona, ​​he was 27, and from the beginning he gave me the feeling that he appreciated me, the rookie. I was the defender, he the goalkeeper: he literally stood behind me. 

'He encouraged me, I would go my way, he pointed out my qualities - which one sometimes no longer sees himself as an insecure 19-year-old. 

Mertesacker and Michael Ballack carry a wreath during Enke's memorial service at AWD Arena

Mertesacker and Michael Ballack carry a wreath during Enke's memorial service at AWD Arena

Mertesacker, pictured in action against Swansea, has paid tribute to Enke in a guest blog post

Mertesacker, pictured in action against Swansea, has paid tribute to Enke in a guest blog post

'He let me feel that he felt safe with me in the defense. I think a more beautiful experience can hardly be done at work, no matter what job you do: he gave me his trust.'

After playing with Enke at Hannover, Mertesacker achieved a personal goal when he linked up with his friend at international level in 2006.

The pair were close, but Mertesacker admits he was stunned to learn of Enke's death as he had never spoken about his battle with depression or suicidal thoughts.

'The news of his death hit me all the harder,' Mertesacker wrote. 'How was it possible that this well-balanced, reflected friend had apparently been so ill that he took his own life? 

Enke poses with Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal after signing for the club in July 2002

Enke poses with Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal after signing for the club in July 2002

'How was it possible that I did not notice? And, of course, the question hurt: Why had he never told me about his depression? We were friends who, as they say, told everything.

'I have learned that this concealment belongs to the clinical picture of depression. When people are acutely depressed, many of them seem to want to hide. 

'I also understood that Robert spent most of his life the way I met him: rational, of quiet happiness; healthy. Like most sufferers, depression only caught him in short periods of his life.'

MERTESACKER'S BLOG POST IN FULL 

When I arrived for an international match at the hotel, there were two things to do for me: check in and call Robert. "Are you here already? I just arrived. Are you coming over to my room? "A few minutes after we arrived, we sat together and talked about everything that came to mind.

The fact that it is the eighth anniversary of his death today, that my conversations with him are well over a decade ago, scares me. That can not have been so long ago, what have I done in the years since then? The years of a football professional go by because our eyes are always only forward, how can I continue, concentrate on the next game. But my experiences with Robert also seem so much closer than eight years, because they mean so much to me. Robert Enke has positively influenced my life like no other colleague.

I was a 19-year-old freshman who had just completed his first Bundesliga games when Robert entered our locker room at Hannover 96 in the summer of 2004 and greeted me: "Ah, hello, and you're the Per." He came from Spain, he had played for FC Barcelona, ​​he was 27, and from the beginning he gave me the feeling that he appreciated me, the rookie. I was the defender, he the goalkeeper: he literally stood behind me. He encouraged me, I would go my way, he pointed out my qualities - which one sometimes no longer sees himself as an insecure 19-year-old. He let me feel that he felt safe with me in the defense. I think a more beautiful experience can hardly be done at work, no matter what job you do: he gave me his trust.

So he helped me decidedly that I developed as a young defender. Just the thought: Do not be afraid if you do not clear an opponent's flank - Robert is here. He radiated calm and determination, he was one of those we say in football jargon: He goes ahead. I think that's important to record, not to somehow glorify Robert, but to make it clear that people hit by depression are by no means weak; It can also hit the strongest ones like Robert because, like cancer, it's just a disease.

When I moved to Werder Bremen in 2006 and Robert stayed in Hannover, we had a common dream: to play together again, in the national team. We often reminded each other. At the age of 29 he actually made the leap into the German selection. As we were looking for immediately after arrival at the hotel, so we sat in the evening after the game back in the hotel together. For me these were rare moments: Here, with Robert, we did not always look forward to the next game for a few hours, but enjoyed what we had done.

The news of his death hit me all the harder. How was it possible that this well-balanced, reflected friend had apparently been so ill that he took his own life? How was it possible that I did not notice? And, of course, the question hurt: Why had he never told me about his depression? We were friends who, as they say, told everything.

I have learned that this concealment belongs to the clinical picture of depression. When people are acutely depressed, many of them seem to want to hide. I also understood that Robert spent most of his life the way I met him: rational, of quiet happiness; healthy. Like most sufferers, depression only caught him in short periods of his life.

With his death, Robert gave us the task to better combat mental illnesses. When I think about my new job, for example, I see one field of activity: next summer, after the end of my active career, I will take over the management of the junior academy at Arsenal FC in London. And there is a structural problem in the junior sector that can also put a strain on the psyche: 80 percent of the boys who sign their training contract as young professionals in England at the age of 16 are unemployed at 18. That is a fact, because there are simply no more seats in the men's teams of the professional clubs. But very few are prepared for it, very few have thought to take another profession. Here it is important to catch the boys. The English Football Association is tackling the problem more aggressively, with career guidance and mental health services. But how many jump over their own shadow to accept help? If they can not admit to themselves, then they will not become professional. Not enough can be done here, so it is good news that the Robert Enke Foundation is currently also talking with the English Football Association about extending its work to the UK.

Many people from Robert's environment are committed today in this area with flying colors, his wife Teresa ahead. I am glad to be able to contribute a very small part with this guest contribution. The memory of Robert himself still helps me today: From time to time, my experiences with him come to my mind again. Then I feel, beyond the pain, once again the happiness of those moments.

 

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