NEWS
11/19/2011 10:16 EST | Updated 01/19/2012 05:12 EST

Bundesliga game between Cologne and Mainz called off after referee's apparent suicide attempt

COLOGNE, Germany - A Bundesliga referee was found bleeding in his hotel bathtub following an apparent suicide attempt hours before he was due to take charge of Saturday's game between Cologne and Mainz.

The game was called off after Babak Rafati was found in his hotel room earlier Saturday "after sustaining injuries with no sign of any involvement by a third party," Cologne police spokesman Andre Fassbender told The Associated Press.

"It certainly looks like (a suicide attempt), yes," Fassbender said.

German Football Federation (DFB) president Theo Zwanziger said Rafati's condition was stable but that he would need "intensive treatment" and be hospitalized for some time.

Zwanziger said the referee's three assistants told him that they had tried unsuccessfully to reach Rafati by phone two hours before kickoff to prepare for the match. When he didn't respond to knocks on his door, they got hotel staff to open the door.

Zwanziger said Rafati 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 they told Zwanziger that it was not unusual for him not to meet them for breakfast as "it was often so."

There was no immediate word on what might have led to the apparent suicide attempt, and Zwanziger said he could not give information on the reasons behind it.

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

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

"I didn't believe such a thing was possible in such a close environment to a Bundesliga game," said German Football League (DFL) president Reinhard Rauball. "I'm very happy that his life is no longer in danger and he could be rescued on time."

Cologne said a replacement referee for Saturday's match could not be found at such short notice.

"Between 2 and 2:15 p.m. we got the message that the referee was in an accident," Cologne sporting director Volker Finke said. "It's appropriate and correct that the game can't take place."

Mainz said it was cancelled by the DFL after consulting both clubs.

A new date had yet to be set for the game.

Coaches and players expressed shock at the news.

"It's an incident to think about because you see that people in general — and especially referees — are under tremendous pressure," said Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes. "These are things that make you think."

Schalke player Lewis Holtby said he got "goosebumps" when he heard the news.

"Even in football, humanity should remain paramount. Referees aren't machines. They're also only people. It puts someone under enormous pressure to referee in front of 60,000 or 80,000 fans."