The day a team-mate died on the football pitch

The terrible events of last Saturday, when Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a suspected cardiac arrest, brought back some terrible memories for me.

It was a glorious Saturday morning, May 16 1993.

University was drawing to a close and it seemed the perfect day to go and have a kick around in the park.

A few calls were made and before we knew it, a dozen friends and friends of friends were converging to play some football.

Someone brought a radio and we listened to Portsmouth, the local team, losing the play-off semi-final first leg against Leicester City.

A young lad I’d never seen around the university volunteered to go in goal and after about 15 minutes, we decided to swap the teams around.

The goalie came out and joined my team and about 30 second later I found myself shielding the ball from two opponents.

I turned, passed the ball to him and ran into some space and then looked up to call for him to play it back to me.

He was on the floor and I will never forget calling out to him “You can’t be tired already!”

 But within seconds it became clear that this young lad wasn’t tired at all and something was seriously wrong.

We all crowded round him and he started convulsing, turning a colour of green I will never forget.

This being before the days of mobile phones, I ran to a phone box and called an ambulance and then ran to Southsea beach and called the St. John’s Ambulance staff who were manning a small hut.

By the time the ambulance arrived, we knew the boy was in big trouble and despite the use of defibrillators and heart massage, after more than two hours, he died.

I’d never met him before – he was the housemate of one of the guys I played football with at Portsmouth University – and we were asked for statements by the local police.

It turned out that the reason I didn’t know him was that he hardly ever went out, spending most of his time either studying or keeping fit. He didn’t drink or smoke.

He was an only child and I can only begin to imagine how desperate his parents must have been.

A post mortem discovered that he had a rare heart condition that had not been diagnosed and could have happened at any time.

I often think about that balmy afternoon and never more so than when I watched events at White Hart Lane last Saturday.

Some people accuse professional sport, and football in particular, of losing its soul, of putting money before anything else.

The messages, the shirts emblazoned with messages of support as far away as Madrid and the leaving behind of partisan rivalries has shown us how sport can bring people together and show solidarity and humanity in a way that should be an example to us all.

The signs look positive for Muamba and hopefully he will make a full recovery.

The actions of the medical staff that evening are to be applauded and hopefully the football authorities, and indeed the administrators at all professional sports governing bodies, will enforce more stringent medical testing for players on a regular basis to ensure everything is done to prevent such terrible episodes occurring again.