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German police suspect suicide attempt by referee

November 19, 2011

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COLOGNE, Germany—A referee in Germany's top league was found bleeding in his hotel bathtub Saturday hours before he was to work a game in what police suspect was a suicide attempt.

Babak Rafati was in stable condition but will need "intensive treatment" and be hospitalized for some time, German Football Federation President Theo Zwanziger said.

Rafati had been scheduled to officiate the Cologne-Mainz game, which was called off when no replacement referee could be found in time.

Zwanziger said the referee's three assistants told him they were unable to reach Rafati by phone two hours before the game when they were to prepare for the afternoon match. When he didn't respond to knocks on his door, they got hotel staff to enter his room. Zwanziger said the referee was "lying in the bathtub and a lot of blood could be seen."

Everything was "fully normal" when the assistants met Rafati on Friday evening, and it was not unusual for him not to meet them for breakfast, Zwaniger said. There was no immediate word on what might have led to the referee's actions.

"I can only tell you the pressure on our referees is tremendously high for various reasons," Zwanziger said.

Cologne police spokesman Andre Fassbender told The Associated Press there was "no sign of any involvement by a third party" and "it certainly looks like" a suicide attempt.

The 41-year-old Rafati has been a referee for the German federation since 1997 and a top-division referee since 2005. He has taken charge of 84 Bundesliga matches and been a FIFA referee since 2008.

Cologne said another referee could not be found on such short notice, and team sporting director Volker Finke said it was "appropriate and correct" to call off the game. Mainz said the league abandoned the game after consulting both clubs. A makeup date has not been set.

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