Regular visitors to the sports desk will be well aware of my love for a tenuously put-together link, and this week I had a corker. A conversation about goalkeepers was going to progress smoothly out of a Karl Marx quote about a certain Lord John Russell, to whit, “No other man has verified to such a degree the truth of the biblical axiom that no man is able to add an inch to his natural height.” Ouch. Well, this was moving seamlessly into a possibly apocryphal story about Peter Shilton as a boy, hanging from the awning of his house with weights strapped to his legs to stretch himself out so he could become a goalkeeper.
It was all going so well, but then something happened which was actually newsworthy, and not terribly pleasant. It‘s a sign of the times that the frenzied newspaper coverage of Wayne Rooney’s indiscretions indicates that, if not all, then at least some of us are interested in the sex life of a not terribly interesting young man – though he is very good at football, granted – at the expense of a scandal that involves the press themselves, the royal family and the prime minister’s chief advisor. Maybe the News of the World just didn’t see any mileage in that particular story.
I’ve alluded to the fact that we use the word “tragic” far too often in regards to matters of men chasing balls around. Bill Shankly had his tongue in his cheek when he said the famous quote about football being more important than life or death, but it is still trotted out with depressing regularity as words of wisdom. Just to clarify, football is not more important than life or death. Football is a game, a diversion from our otherwise dull, or even sometimes tragic, lives. That on winning the World Cup final three victorious Spanish players had dedications on their shirts to Antonio Puerta and Daniel Jarque, young men who died due to exertions in the game they loved (though Jarque was not on the pitch when he died, age 25), shows how a simple fault can easily kill a young man in his physical prime.
So when Michael Preetz recieved a call whist on holiday in Mallorca saying that Hertha‘s striker Adrián Ramos had collapsed, he could be forgiven for thinking the absolute worst. Ramos had just come on the pitch in the 77th minute for Colombia, in a friendly away against Venezuela, when after a strong collision, he grasped his chest and toppled to the ground. Panicking staff rushed him into the bowels of the stadium, where he was immediately treated by the Colombian team doctor. His assessment that he was suffering from a lack of potassium was questioned by the worried-sounding Hertha team doctor. Possibly more simply, it was 30 C out there and incredibly humid. Ramos had also just flown the 10,000 miles from Berlin. All of these could be factors, and a blow to the solar plexus can bring on similar effects (at least according to that medical bible, Berliner Kurier), but worryingly, it was reported yesterday that the scene was almost a carbon copy of one that occurred when Ramos played for Cali in the Colombian league.
Since 1999, Bundesliga professionals have had to take mandatory heart tests, so the likelyhood is that a congenital defect would have veen picked up, but that knowledge won‘t have made the news of his collapse any easier for Preetz, his teammates, his family, and friends such as John Jairo Mosquera, his fellow Colombian striker at Union.
Robert Enke‘s death wasn‘t a tragedy for football: it was a tragedy for his wife and young daughter. The current scandals whirling around Pakistan’s cricket team are not a tragedy when back home thousands have been killed and millions more left homeless by devastating floods. Ramos is already fit to fly to Mexico today (Wednesday), and it looks like he will recieve the all-clear from Hertha’s medical staff when he is checked out on returning, but the memories of Marc-Vivien Foé are still all too fresh in the memory. Ramos’ won‘t have been the only heart racing last week.