Chelsea teammates Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba won’t be facing each other when Germany plays Ivory Coast in a friendly Wednesday that will be the Germans’ first game since the suicide of goalkepeer Robert Enke.
Both captains are out with injuries – Ballack has an inflamed knee and Drogba is nursing a rib injury.
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The game in Schalke’s stadium in Gelsenkirchen comes eight days after Enke, who was expected to be Germany’s starting goalkeeper at next year’s World Cup in South Africa, threw himself in front of a train, stunning the country and leaving it in mourning. The national team then canceled Saturday’s friendly against Chile.
“We are getting back into the sporting everyday life, the tension is decreasing,” team manager Oliver Bierhoff said.
The players will observe a minute of silence for Enke before the kickoff and his jersey is expected to be placed on the bench.
“Then we have to try to focus on football again,” Bierhoff said. “We paid our individual farewells to Robert on Sunday. He would have wanted the team to play with zest and momentum.”
Coach Joachim Loew and the entire team attended a moving memorial service for Enke at his home stadium in Hannover on Sunday before assembling in Duesseldorf, where the team is based before Wednesday’s game in nearby Gelsenkirchen.
After Enke’s death, his widow revealed that he had been suffering from depression for six years. Enke had not been selected for the games against Chile and Ivory Coast because he had only recently returned from an intestinal ailment.
Only about one-half of the 53,000 available tickets have been sold, although Bierhoff called the game an “important test against a strong opponent.”
Defender Philipp Lahm, who will replace Ballack as Germany’s captain, said the players were looking forward to playing football again.
“Every players will give his best,” said Lahm, who was recently fined heavily by Bayern Munich for criticizing his club’s management.
Bierhoff said the two goalkeepers in the squad will both play, with Werder Bremen’s Tim Wiese to start and Schalke’s Manuel Neuer playing the second half in his home stadium.
Bayer Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling, who leads the Bundesliga with eight goals, will start the game.
Striker Miroslav Klose, whose twin sons had contracted swine flu, is missing. Although Klose has been cleared by doctors, Loew decided to leave him out of the team.
Salomon Kalou and Abdoulaye Meite may return to the Ivory Coast lineup after sitting out Saturday’s 3-0 win over Guinea. Kalou kicked Meite following a foul by his teammate in training and coach Vahid Halilhodzic left both players out.
Ivorian football federation president Jacques Anouma coaxed the players into a reconciliation.
“Wwe have been punished and I take responsibility for what happened,” Kalou said. “This is how you make progress: admit to your mistakes and move on.”