After beating Coventry City, Luton Town completed one of the best fairytale journeys to become the first team to go from non-league to the Premier League. However, the game was also marred by an incident when their defender and captain, Tom Lockyer, collapsed on the pitch. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a player has collapsed on the pitch; several such incidents over the years have etched themselves in fans’ memory.
While most of these incidents had a happy ending=, many times they had disastrous consequences and, in some cases, even led to the player’s death. These incidents also point out how hard and stressful it is to be at the top of the football pyramid playing week in and week out, which takes a toll on the mind and the body.
So, here are some players who collapsed on the pitch in the middle of the game.
Tom Lockyer- 2023
Luton Town faced Coventry in the Championship play-off final. This was more than a game for Luton, who just nine years ago were in the non-league. Victory would ensure they became the first team to go from non-league to Premier League. However, eight minutes into the game, Luton’s skipper Tom Lockyer collapsed on the field while backpedalling to thwart a Coventry attack.
Lockyer tried to get up but collapsed again. The medics quickly called the stretcher and took him to the hospital. In the end, he recovered without any severe damage to his health. In addition, Luton, without their captain, played brilliantly to win the final on penalty shootouts.
Christian Eriksen- 2021
Denmark started their Euro 2020 campaign against Finland. The match was a stalemate and looked boring for the most part. However, in the 42nd minute of the game, while looking to receive the ball from a throw-in, Eriksen collapsed on the pitch with no opposition player around him. Eriksen had suffered a cardiac arrest and was immediately given on-pitch assistance by the medics, with his teammates forming a circle around him in solidarity.
The midfielder was taken to the hospital, and the game resumed, which Finland won 1-0. Eriksen recovered, and with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) ( a device that resets the heart in case of a cardiac arrest) attached to his heart, he began playing and has been one of the main reasons why Manchester United finished in the Champions League places.
Marc-Vivien Foe- 2003
After winning the 2002 African Cup of Nations, Cameroon qualified for the 2003 Confederations Cup. And the Indomitable Lions started their campaign brilliantly, beating world champions Brazil and World Cup semi-finalist Turkey to qualify for the semi-finals, where they faced Columbia.
In the 72nd minute, Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed on the pitch without any player near him. He was immediately given immediate resuscitation care for the next 45 minutes, including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
He was immediately taken to the medical centre of the stadium but died shortly after. Cameroon would win the match but lose in the final to France. After his death, the Cameroonian government awarded Vivian Foe the Commander of the National Order of Valour. His then-club Manchester City also paid tribute to him and retired his jersey number (23) in his respect.
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Fabrice Muamba- 2012
In the 2011-12 season, Bolton Wanderers were playing Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. And it was in the game where Bolton player Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest. What made Muamba’s situation worse was that his heart had stopped beating. However, with the assistance of a fan who was a cardiologist, Muamba was given multiple defibrillator shocks for 78 minutes (during which he was technically dead) before his heart started beating again.
Mumaba would later retire at the age of 24 and, after retirement, ventured into media, journalism and coaching.
Cheick Tiote- 2017
Cheick Tiote is one of the best players to come out from Ivory Coast. The midfielder played for teams such as Anderlecht, Twente, and Newcastle United, winning two titles in Belgium and one title in the Netherlands. He also won the African Cup of Nations in 2015 with the Ivory Coast national football team.
In 2017, Tiote was playing for Beijing Sport University FC, a club that then played in the Chinese League One Division, when he suffered a cardiac arrest while training. Attempts were made to resuscitate him before he was declared dead. Tiote was given a military funeral in Ivory Coast while Beijing Sport University retired his jersey number (24).