'Mr World Cup' in suicide attempt

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A senior Berlin football official known as "Mr World Cup" for the role he played in organising celebrations for fans during the tournament was in a critical condition in hospital yesterday after shooting himself in the head in an apparent suicide attempt.

Police said that Juergen Kiessling, 65, shot himself with a pistol 70 minutes into the final between France and Italy on Sunday night, while watching the match at his Berlin home.

"A neighbour heard the shot ring out and alerted the police," a Berlin police spokesman said yesterday. "Mr Kiessling suffered severe head wounds and was taken to hospital immediately. His condition is serious."

Police said they ruled out the possibility that Mr Kiessling had been the victim of an attempted murder as he had left two suicide notes in his home. One was addressed to his daughter, with whom he lived, and the second was for the rest of the family.

A police spokesman refused to comment on the content of the notes yesterday but said that Mr Kiessling appeared to have had a number of personal problems including those of a "political nature". The spokesman declined to elaborate further.

Mr Kiessling, who had been employed by the Berlin city government since 2000, was spokesman for the 12 German cities that hosted the World Cup this summer, and organised Berlin's "Fan Mile", which attracted more than one million football supporters during the final on Sunday.

Klaus Böger, Berlin's senator for sport, said Mr Kiessling was highly regarded by the city government for his achievements during the World Cup. Berlin city officials said he had passed retirement age last month, but had agreed to stay on for another year.