Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fingers Crossed

22 year-old Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta suffered a heart attack during the 4-1 victory over Getafe on the weekend. He was the fifth professional player to have suffered an on-field heart attack this decade, but the only one so far to have survived the incident.

Most famously, Cameroon's Marc Vivien Foe collapsed and died during the Confederations' Cup semi-final in 2003. As it turned out, he suffered from an enlarged right ventricle - a condition doctors said would not have been detectable prior to the heart attack. Six months later, Benfica's Miklos Feher died of cardiac arrest brought on by heart palpitations which - indirectly - were brought about by a condition involving the thickening of the heart walls.

Later in 2004, Sao Caetanho's central defender Serginho collapsed and died on the field of a heart attack. Unlike the other two deaths, Serginho's case was more sinister because the club knew he had a heart condition (cardiomyopathy) and permitted him to play anyway. In an extraordinary move the CBF - not normally being known for holding anyone to account for anything - hot the club with a 24-point deduction and handed lengthy suspensions to the club's President and chief medical officer (cynics would probably note that the severity of the punishment was inversely related to the club's popular appeal and that a team like Flamengo or Corinthians would not have received such a sentence).

A couple of weeks later, another Brazilian, Cristiano de Lima died of a heart attack while playing for Dempo Sports Club in the final of India's Federation Cup against Mohun Bagal. While scoring the winning goal, he was struck in the chest by the Mohun Bagal keeper Subrata Paul. The contact apparently caused his heart to stop and de Lima died en route to hospital. Many - including national team captain Baichung Bhutia - called for 19-year old Paul to be banned from the game and even criminally charged for the incident. But Paul stayed in the game and is now in the national team with Bhutia (the two both played yesterday in a 3-0 Nehru Cup victory over Kyrgysztan).

The latest news from Marca suggests that Puerta's condition is still very serious (he remains on a ventilator) but that it has not worsened. No news reports I have seen have suggested anything about any a possible pre-existing condition (though my Spanish may simply not be good enough to have noticed). Here's just hoping he breaks football's most macabre streaks.


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