Referee's life saved after suicide attempt


Dr Theo Zwanziger, the president of the German Football Association, praised the two assistants and fourth official of Saturday's Bundesliga match between Cologne and Mainz for saving referee Babak Rafati's life.

Rafati was found in the bath of his Cologne hotel room by the officials after he had slit his wrists in an attempt to commit suicide two hours before the game.

Rafati, a banker who had been a referee since 1997, failed to attend a meeting with the other officials prior to the match, so Holger Henschel, Frank Willenborg and Patrick Ittrich knocked on his hotel door but received no answer. With the help of a hotel worker, they gained access to Rafati's room and on finding him slumped in the bath quickly raised the alarm. The referee is now in a stable condition in intensive care.

"Compliments to them [the officials]," said Zwanziger. "These three saved his life. When they discovered him, they ensured that he could survive with emergency measures." The game was called off 40 minutes before kick-off.

Dr Reinhard Rauball, president of the German Football League, said: "I am deeply shocked and I believe that everybody connected with the Bundesliga feels the same way.

"If there was anything to be learnt from the death of [Germany goalkeeper] Robert Enke, then it was that football is not everything in life. Calling off this game was the right decision."

In Spain, Real Madrid maintained their three-point advantage over rivals Barcelona at the top of La Liga after winning 3-2 at Valencia on Saturday. Goals from Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo secured the points, the hosts scoring through Roberto Soldado.

Barcelona cruised to a 4-0 home win over Real Zaragoza, with Gerard Piqué, Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol and David Villa on the scoresheet. The Barça coach, Pepe Guardiola, praised Messi for playing through pain after the Argentine forward went down to a strong challenge during the game. "Messi does not complain," Guardiola said. "He said he was fine so I decided he should continue. He gives us many things."