German referee in stable condition

German referee in stable condition

Published Nov. 20, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

The president of the German Football Association, Dr Theo Zwanziger, has revealed referee Babak Rafati is in a stable condition in a Cologne hospital after what police believe was a suicide attempt.

Zwanziger called off his planned visit to Wiesbaden, where Germany's women's team were playing Kazakhstan, to find out the circumstances behind the incident which forced the postponement of Saturday's Bundesliga fixture between Cologne and Mainz.

At a press conference, Zwanziger confirmed Rafati had attempted to kill himself, but was found by his assistant referees before it was too late.

"Babak Rafati is in a stable condition and he is being treated in intensive care," Dr Zwanziger is quoted as saying by


"It is a difficult situation for the assistant referees to deal with, but they seem to be coping. They are receiving psychological assistance."

Police spokesman Andre Fassbender said. "It looks like a suicide attempt, yes."

The match between Cologne and Mainz was called off after Rafati failed to appear.

His assistants became concerned when the Hanover-based referee did not show up for a scheduled pre-match meeting before the transfer from their hotel to the Mungersdorfer Stadion.

"The assistants say that they were all together last night and everything appeared to be fine," Dr Zwanziger said.

"Rafati was not present at breakfast this morning, but that was nothing extraordinary.

"At 13:30, they were all due to meet and, when he was not there, and since he is usually punctual, the assistants tried to call him on his phone.

"Since they could not get hold of him, they knocked on his hotel room door. Afterwards, a hotel worker opened the door.

"He was found lying in the bath tub and there was a lot of blood. They tried everything.

"A huge thank you must be said to the three assistants. If his condition is not life-threatening, then the three assistants have a lot to do with that."

The game was called off 50 minutes prior to its scheduled kick-off.

Cologne's director of sport Volker Finke later spoke of "an accident" prompting the postponement.

Dr Zwanziger has now confirmed the police are treating the incident as a suicide attempt.

"The police have ruled out any external cause," he said.

"Notes have been found and these will now have to be analysed."

Rafati made his refereeing debut in the exact same fixture in 2005 and was promoted to the FIFA list of referees three years later following the retirement of Markus Merk.

The reasons behind the attempt remain unclear, but Dr Zwanziger said the pressure on a referee in modern football could be a contributory factor.

"The motive remains unclear," he said.

"We all now have to hope that Rafati's condition stabilises and that he regains full health, and that whatever caused this will become clear so that he can be helped.

"He is now in good hands. It is difficult to understand how such a young man can find himself in a situation with no way out.

"All I can imagine is that the pressure on referees is so high these days, for whatever reason, and we are unable to find the right balance."