ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: No progress has been after the latest of several recent deaths from heart failure of players in Argentina.
The most recent was at the end of August – Hector Sanabria of Laferrere in the lower league Primera C. This turned an immediate spotlight on the local medical care problem but the issue now appears to have been forgotten after initial blame fell on the Argentinian FA, the players union and the clubs.
The AFA refuted all charges. It says it checks all players at 13 when they pass from the infants to juniors divisions though some who play in first divisions never played in the infants category.
After that, it says, it is up to their clubs who, at the start of each season, have to send them a list of all their players certifying that they are medically apt. One player said that the AFA’s medical examination is not thorough and those organised by many lower division clubs may not be either.
The players’ union, to whom C and D division players went to protest, has said it does not really cover players in those divisions as, although they are paid, they are not ‘proper professionals.’ It did tell the protesting players that they would see what it could do which, as far as is known, has not amounted to anything.
A players’ union doctor said it offered free medical examinations to all players but not many take advantage because this is not an obligation. Top division players have medical insurance and can look after themselves but others do not have it and/or may not be able to pay for it.
Ambulances should be present at all matches by law at all AFA divisions but whether they all have the right equipment to deal with urgent heart attacks is another matter.
Some clubs are also far from proper hospitals and no ambulances or doctors attend many clubs’ training sessions when such accidents can also happen.
Injuries during training can occur not only in a match but also when, as often happens, armed hooligans invade the pitch to “urge” the footballers to play better.
A local doctor said recently that it was “only by the grace of God” that more fatal heart attacks did not occur under the present precarious conditions.