Wednesday, May 12, 2021

How safe are Botswana footballers?

The incident shook those who were at White Hart Lane and TV viewers on that fateful Saturday as they watched Muamba fighting for his life. Players and supporters cried uncontrollably on the stands but credit has to go to referee Howard Webb who was strong enough to call off that game even though it had just started.

Messages from across the world poured to the Reebok Stadium and his family wishing him a speedy recovery. According to his doctor, Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest and his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes.

Even though the player has made great progress, Muamba still remains in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and still has a long way ahead.

On Thursday, another tragedy hit the football world in India when Bangalore Mars’ midfielder Venkatesh, 27, died after suffering a cardiac arrest towards the end of the match.

The midfielder had just come on as a 73th minute substitute during a league game in the southern city. Reports claim that there was no ambulance at the stadium and he was taken to the hospital in a three wheel-auto rickshaw. Though he was given CPR and defibrillator shocks it was too late to save his precious life.

These recent incidents have made one wonder how safe our players in Botswana football are. The incident that can be remembered in Botswana was that of Police XI player, Mompati ‘Teenage’ Gosenayang, in the early 90s.

Currently, there were incidences whereby injured players were ferried to the hospitals in private cars as there were no ambulances at the stadium. To make matters worse, those players were at times forced to wait for longer periods at the hospitals to be attended by doctors.

Most of local clubs do not have qualified medics or doctors on their benches, which is worrisome, considering the latest developments in the beautiful game. Investigations have shown that only two out of 16 Premier League clubs conduct medical check-ups on their players at the start of every season.

CAF Medical Instructor, Dr Victor Ramathasele, acknowledged that the recent Muamba incident has forced the football world to do introspection. He said that it is important that players are examined at the start of every season to ensure that they are in good condition to play football during that season.

“Even before training could start on a daily basis, there is a need to have qualified medical personnel and ambulance in case something happens,” Ramathasele told a South African television station. But he was quick to point out that the challenge faced by African clubs is lack of resources and funds.

Township Rollers’ chairman Spencer Mmui said that it is important for them to take the health of their players into account before something tragic happens. He concurred that some of the medics used by the Premier League clubs are not qualified to rescue a situation when it arises.

“If that incident (Muamba’s collapse) could have happened here, I doubt if he could have survived. We (Premier League chairmen) are meeting on Sunday (today) where the issue will be addressed,” said Mmui.

BDF XI manager Masego Ntshingane said that the recent incidents should serve as a warning to local clubs. He lamented that locally, they are still lagging behind when it comes to the medical issues.
“What happened in England shocked me. If it was in Botswana, that player would have died because there are no medical facilities available at our grounds. We need to improve medically to ensure that our players do not suffer,” he said.

Ntshingane pointed out that at BDF XI, they do medical check-ups every pre-season as a way of ensuring whether their players are in good health. “At GU, we’ve a qualified nurse and physiotherapist who have helped us a lot when it comes to players’ injuries and others. But we do not have someone who could assist in case something like cardiac arrest arises. We’ve just got out of a meeting (on Friday) and we’re exploring to check our players different ailments. It’s something we’ll need to sit down with our medical team and discuss because it involves lots of money. I really loved what Tottenham Hotspur did after the incident by taking their players for routine medical check-ups,” said Gaborone United (GU) secretary, Herbert Letsebe. He pointed out that every day at their training, all their medical people are present to guard against anything which might happen. He stressed that the recent situation remains a challenge to the Botswana Football Association and Premier League.

“It’s time that clubs are compelled to have qualified medical personnel on their benches because anything is possible,” he said.


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