Sunday, March 25, 2012

When You Give Your Heart And Soul

Soccer is one of the most demanding sports to play competitively. The physical condition that soccer players must have is considered to be more important than the skills that they possess to play the game. With the proper training, the vast majority of soccer players are capable of running up and down the field and finishing games normally, but unfortunately, quite few players do not.
Over the years, we have seen players like LA Galaxy’s David Beckham with the ability to average traveling distances on the field of thirteen miles per game. He has always worked out hard to stay in shape and perform well, and thankfully for him, his body has been able to keep responding to the demands of the game, regardless of his age. Other players do not have such luck, and sometimes they do not find it out the easy way.
When Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the soccer field last weekend against Tottenham while playing a FA Cup game due to a heart failure, not only his heart stopped beating, but also his teammates’, opponents’, fans’ and family’s. This scary moment brought memories of similar unfortunate and tragic incidents in the world of soccer, and we definitely did not want it to repeat again.
Despite the consequences that this unfortunate incident may have on the soccer career of Muamba, he, as well as us (the fans of the sport), has to be grateful that life has given him a second chance to enjoy his time on earth. And, if he ends up not being able to shine as a soccer player anymore, he has plenty of other activities to excel in. He is young and many opportunities will come in handy for him.
As individuals, we need to accept the limitations that life gives us sometimes, especially if they are life-threatening to us. Of course that for Muamba this will not be an easy task, as he fought all his life to be a soccer player. So now that we prayed for him to recover from his heart attack, we should continue praying for him to resume his soccer career normally and without any more inconveniences. But if that were not to be possible, we should pray for him not to get discouraged and find another passion of his in life, just like many soccer players have after being diagnosed with a heart condition or something similar to that matter. It has been hard for them to accept the heart breaking news, but they have continued on to become spokesmen, soccer commentators, coaches, agents, etc. The best example I can think of is Ruben De La Red, who had to retire from soccer at the age of twenty five after he suffered a heart ailment when playing for Real Madrid in 2008. After his retirement, De La Red became part of the coaching staff for the younsters of Real Madrid.
I am sure that late players like Dani Jarque, Marc-Vivien Foe, Antonio Puerta and Phil O’Donnell, would do anything to still be around their families and friends. For example, I clearly remember that when Espanyol's Dani Jarque passed away, he was expecting a baby girl with his girlfriend… It is no question that he would have loved to have a second chance in life to welcome his daughter into this world and his family, and to watch her grow.

But why do these incidents occur? Don't players must pass their physicals to be clear to play for their club teams? Don't players have healthy diets? This incident continues to happen more often than it should (or at least, what one would imagine). And while some research is being conducted to evaluate and fully understand these unfortunate circumstances, many answers have not been found to prevent these scary and tragic moments from happening.  
The most known case of prevention is the one of Anthony Van Loo, who was diagnosed with a heart condition a couple of years ago and was only allowed to play professional soccer again because his doctor implanted a defibrillator in his heart that would automatically shock his heart, in case that he were to suffer another heart attack during a game, which he already has and it worked perfectly.
Despite this encouraging and hopeful news, the fact is that a better method of checking for heart failure and other conditions needs to be implemented into the game. It is not only scary for players, but also unfair for them to be giving their hearts and souls out on the field thinking that they are completely fine, when there are no guarantees that their hearts and souls ares are going to be given back to them, in the event that they suddenly drop down on the field without any warning or apparent reason.
Are some factors being ignored or not taken a careful look by the medical trainers and doctors of the teams when soccer players have their physical examinations done? The reality of the matter is that something is wrong and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. When it comes to the lives and the safety of these soccer players every single factor should be considered. Basketball, tennis and cycling are very demanding sports, too, but we rarely see the athletes of these different disciplines vanish on the pitch, suddenly.

                                                                                                                   - Y gracias por no fumar!

Fan's messages and wishes for Muamba written down
 on Boltons jersey. Picture from 

Me in front of the statue of Dani Jarque at RCD Espanyol Stadium.
Picture from my own collection.

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