„A sound mind in a sound body” – that’s what the latin aphorism says. It seems to be true for most professional sportsmen, football players included; healthy body – check, healthy spirit – well, at least as far as sports go.. However, there is always an exception to the rule and even a healthy sportsman’s body in top form is not insurance for a long and healthy life. As much as the topic is a taboo, accidents happen, and in some cases, the highest price is paid. The history of sport is marked forever by premature departure of Ayrton Senna (F1), Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team (Ice hockey), Ulrike Maier (skiing) – to name just a few across all sport disciplines. And football players are not spared either. The most tragic cases, such as Marc-Vivien Foé, Miklós Fehér, are surely still fresh in football fans memories, therefore we’ll not dwell on them and rather move on to some rather interesting stories of football players‘ accidents and injuries that left an important mark on their teams, fans and, of course, the players themselves.
Let’s focus on some of the most well-known stories of players injuries in modern football history – both gruesome and inspirational.
Eduardo da Silva
23rd February 2008, a young talented Arsenal player Eduardo da Silva suffered a broken left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle after a hard tackle by Birmingham City’s defender Martin Taylor. Eduardo, due to immense pain, did not remeber the incident nor Taylor’s visit in the hospital, when he allegedly apologised to the victim of his hard tackle (which was ruled out as a deliberate act). Some cite the incident as a cause of Arsenal failing to maintain their lead in the Premier League title race that season.
After recovery, da Silva struggled to reclaim his place within the team of strong players and was forced to relocate to Shakhtar Donetsk where he also failed to shine. He then signed with Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, Brasil, where he plays currently. Although born in Brasil, he played for Croatia’s National team after becoming a citizen in 2002, but this engagement is most probably over as well.
This Swedish star’s accident is deemed a lucky one by many. He returned to the field even stronger than before the double leg fracture which could have been career-ending. After having to abstain from playing for 8 months in 1999, he managed to score 53 goals for Celtic in 50 matches the next season. Larsson’s great form and quality brought attention from Barcelona and soon a contract followed.
Later he moved to Manchester United and even at 42 years he played two matches in Swedish League, wearing Helsingborg colours. Some of AS Roma fans see a parallel with Larsson in their own Francesco Totti who also suffered and recovered from a serious leg fracture and is known for his longevity and durability in the football world.
It’s been almost 20 years since Old Trafford witnessed a serious incident involving Coventry defender David Busst and Denis Irwin (ManU) resulting in an open leg fracture for Busst and eventually the end of his career. Irwin was not to blame for his opponent’s injury as he slipped during his defensive efforts. A few years later, another ManU player, Roy Keane, infamously tackled an opponent, also causing him a career-ending injury, however this time the effort was deliberate.
In 2006 Reading FC was amidst one of their best seasons. On 14th October they were hosting Chelsea London in a highly anticipated Premier League match. Just moments after the match started, Reading’s Stephen Hunt came face to face with the guests’ goalkeeper Petr Cech, whom he accidentally hit in the head with his knee. The hit was do hard it left Cech with a skull fracture. Since then the star goalkeeper is easily recognized by his unusual headgear, resembling a tankist’s helmet.
However, Cech’s injury was not the last of unusual developments in the duel. His stand-in, Carlo Cudicini also suffered an injury and was replaced by John Terry who guarded Chelsea’s net successfully till the end, keeping a clean sheet and thus contributing to his team’s victory. There is an ongoing debate whether the injury had an impact on Cech’s football skills. Some mention a certain insecurity in close clashes, however all can agree that becoming more cautious wasn’t a bad thing for the number one goalkeeper and his very successfull career. Not as a fashion icon but that surely wasn’t his goal :).
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