KEIR RADNEDGE in Budapest: FIFA’s medicals chief want the world’s national federation to use a slice of their annual grants from the world federation to provide a defibrillator at every senior stadium.
Michel D’Hooghe, president of the medical committee, and Jiri Dvorak, head of medical services, were speaking after a specialist two-day conference in the Hungarian capital.
The issue had been highlighted by the Fabrice Muamba cardiac arrest during this year’s Tottenham-Bolton FA Cup-tie and then the death of former Italian under-21 international Morosini of Livorno.
D’Hooghe said: “We have sent a questionnaire to all national associations to gain a first idea of the frequency of these sudden cardiac deaths and we had 84 fatal cases over the last five years and 24 cases of arrests with a good result.
“In only 20pc of cases was a defibrillator available at the pitch. So we think there must be one on all football fields. That can be a matter of death or life.”
Asked about the financing, D’Hooghe said: “Every year FIFA gives money to all the national associations. That would be a very good use of a little of that money.”
Earlier England’s World Cup official Howard Webb had spoken about the Muamba incident since he was the match referee.
Webb, who had been speaking at the medical conference, said: “I turned and saw Fabrice Muamba lying face down on the floor with no one else nearby – this was clearly a major concern and clearly something more than a normal injury.
“The fact that he wasn’t rolling around screaming in agony, the way he went down with no contact, meant immediately it was serious. And it was not only me – the players recognised it. You see William Gallas’ reaction – an opposing player – immediately waving to the bench to come on.
“If the game had not been stopped within 20 or 30 seconds, that might have made a difference to his chances of recovery of course. One of our obligations as a referee is to try and observe fair play and keep the game flowing when we can. But, if players cry wolftoo many times, then there is a possibility that maybe we will not react in the way we need to do based on what we saw there.
“If we come under criticism for stopping the games too many times for doctors or physios to enter the field of play then referees might be inclined not to stop the game.
“I’m not saying it’s a particularly big problem but I have seen games stopped where players weren’t as seriously injured as they would have you believe and that is an issue when you are dealing with something as serious as this.”
Webb said like many of those at White Hart Lane, the incident had had a profound effect on him.
“The sensation I got was that the crowd was pushing with [Bolton doctor] Jonathan Tobin and his colleagues to get Fabrice Muamba’s heart going. It was amazing, absolutely astonishing. It was just the most unbelievable crowd reaction I have ever experienced in football and thinking about it now makes me feel emotional.
“It just puts things into perspective. The game is important, the result is important and it does affect people’s livelihoods, we are reminded of that on a regular basis – but without life there is no football at all.”
Webb said he had had little hope initially that Muamba would pull through.
“There was a numb sensation about what you’d witnessed, what you’ve seen,” said. “We thought it was a slim hope, that he would pull through. No news was good news as I was going back up the motorway, toward to the north of england, back home. I was listening to the bulletins.
“The next morning, still no news and we thought ‘Wow, this is maybe a good sign’. That he has made the recovery he has now is an unbelievable miracle.”
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