Saturday, December 29, 2007

Phil O'Donnell for Motherwell (v Kilmarnock), 24 November 2007

In these days where football is lauded as being more athletic, faster and more physically challenging than ever, the most serious and tragic repercussion of this is the number of player deaths.

Today saw the untimely and premature death of Motherwell captain and Scotland international Phil O'Donnell at the end of his clubs' 5-3 win over Dundee United.

2007 has, by my reckoning and according to this Wikipedia article, been the worst year in history for football player deaths and the 2000s the worst decade. A Brazilian, Cristiano Junior, the Zambian Chaswe Nsofwa, the young Spanish international Antonio Puerta and now O'Donnell have died during matches this year. This is on top of incidents such as Clive Clarke's collapse during the Forest v Leicester cup tie earlier this year.

Whilst the cause of this latest tragedy is as yet unknown, heart failure has accounted for the vast majority of similar cases (the exceptions being two Colombian players killed by being hit by bolts of lightning within three days of one another in 2004 ). Assuming medicine in football and general player care is better than it's ever been, is it the changing nature of the game that's responsible for this increase in fatalities?

Of course, days like this reinforce the fact that it's simply a stupid game of twenty two people kicking a ball about. The thoughts of everyone in the game should be with the Scotsman's family and friends tonight.

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