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German league referee stable after suicide bid
The Bundesliga referee, who attempted to commit suicide on Saturday morning just hours before he was scheduled to officiate a German league game, is stable in a Cologne hospital and out of danger.
German league referee Babak Rafati, 41, was discovered in the bathtub of his hotel room in Cologne by his assistant referees early on Saturday afternoon having tried to commit suicide by cutting open his veins.
Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Federation (DFB), confirmed Rafati's condition during a Cologne press conference and praised the three assistant referees whose actions had undoubtedly saved their colleague's life.
"It is an extraordinary situation, when one of our top referees makes a suicide attempt," said Zwanziger.
"After Babak was not at breakfast, and then didn't come to a meeting to discuss the game, his assistants had his room opened and they found him in the bathtub.
"There was a lot of blood. That is all I can say, the other details should be spared.
"I have to say, the three assistant referees saved Babak's life."
The German league match Rafati should have officiated between Cologne and Mainz was called off 40 minutes before kick-off and will be replayed.
Rafati is being treated in an intensive care unit and Zwanziger said Germany had learnt little from the tragic death of Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke, who took his life two years ago after battling with depression for several years.
"One wonders why such a young man sees only hopelessness before him," said Zwanziger about Rafati.
"I can only offer that our referees are exposed to an incredible amount of pressure and we have not managed to get things in the proper balance.
"It is clear, however, that he will need further intensive treatment."
Bundesliga coaches have expressed their dismay at the news.
"I know him very well, the news has shocked me greatly," Hanover 96 coach Mirko Slomka told German Sky.
Schalke coach Huub Stevens was dumbfounded.
"It's hard to believe that something like this can happen," said the Dutchman.
"I am lost for words.
"Health is always the most important thing and football is only a minor matter in comparison.
"I can imagine no one wanted to play after hearing the news."
Rafati, who is of Iranian origin, has been a Bundesliga referee for six years, ironically his first match having also been between Cologne and Mainz, and he has officiated 84 top-flight German league games.
"I am incredibly concerned. This affects the entire football community," said Germany's three-time World Cup referee Markus Merk, an expert for German Sky television.
He had been a FIFA referee since 2008, Rafati was not nominated by the DFB to referee this year at international level.
He had been often criticised by Bundesliga players and German magazine Kicker had voted him the worst referee in the league on a few occasions.
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