Fallen heroes: Greatest tragedies in sports
One of the greatest fears that mankind has had to endure since the stone ages is the fear of death.It’s not the fear of death as a concept per say, but it’s more about the fear of the unknown. News of death hits you much harder when it happens unexpectedly. One minute you see a perfectly able body running around the field with a ball at his feet, the next you see the same person succumb and lie crumpled in a heap due to a heart attack. In the sports world, this uncertainty while playing the game is what makes the fear of death more prevalent among us mortals. A quick browse through the annals of sporting history has shown us that death can strike anywhere at any time. Here is a look back to all the tragic deaths that cut short many promising careers.
Phil Hughes (Cricket):
The most recent high-profile death in the cricket pitch involves Australian batsman Phil Hughes who was struck on the head by a bouncer during a match between South Australia and New South Wales. He suffered a ruptured artery and required mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the boundary, before being rushed to a hospital. Hughes succumbed to his injuries two days later.
Cristiano Junior (Football):
One of the most devastating incidents in Indian football occurred when Júnior playing for Dempo FC collided with Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Subrata Pal, in the 78th minute of the Federation Cup finals. While scoring his second goal after chasing the ball into the box, he collided with the keeper, staggered away and then collapsed.[Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. The game continued after Junior was taken off the field. He was dead on arrival at Hosmat Hospital, hospital officials said that no doctors were requested to be at the ground during the Federation Cup match. Dempo won the Cup 2-0. According to the autopsy performed in the Bangalore Hospital (where Junior was moved from the stadium), the footballer died because of a heart stroke. His life and career ended with the ball at his feet and after scoring the winning goal.
Considered by many as the greatest boxer of all times, Salvador Sánchez’s boxing greatness cannot be judged with any true accuracy or historical precision. At just twenty-three-year-old the WBC Featherweight world champion looked unbeatable but tragedy struck on August 12, 1982, when he crashed while driving his Porsche 928 sports car and died on the spot.
Joaquim Agostinho(Bicycle racing):
Agostinho was one of the most decorated Portuguese bicycle racers of his time and a six-time national champion. Additionally, he took part in many major international races, including the most significant of all, the Tour de France, in which he competed thirteen times. Unfortunately for him and the world of professional cycling, Agostinho became the victim of one of the most ironic tragedies in the sport’s history. At Quarteira, during the 1984 Tour of the Algarve (he was leading at the time), a dog ran into the race track a few hundred meters before the finish line and Agostinho hit it. He fell to the ground and injured his head, a trauma that put him in a coma a few hours from which he never emerged.
Andres Escobar (Football):
The story of Andres Escobar is one of the most tragic and horrifying events in the history of the beautiful game. After his own goal against the USA in the 1994 World Cup signaled the end of Colombia’s hopes for qualifying to the next round, Escobar was murdered outside a nightclub by two men who argued with him about his mistake in that game. One of the murderers was a member of a powerful Colombian cartel, which made many people believe that Escobar’s murder might have been a bit more mysterious than some originally thought.
Darryn Randall (Cricket):
Randall was competing in a South African domestic match when he was hit on the side of the head while attempting a pull shot. The wicketkeeper-batsman collapsed and was immediately rushed to the hospital, but he could not be revived upon arrival.
Marc-Vivien Foe (Football):
The 2003 Confederations Cup semi-final match between Cameroon and France at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland saw another tragedy hit the game when Cameroon footballer Marc-Vivien Foe suddenly collapsed to the ground. He was innocently jogging along in the field and nobody on the field or in the crowd could fathom how critical his condition was. Medical and support staff attempted to resuscitate him on the pitch, before carrying him on a stretcher to the bowels of the stadium where he took his last breath after many failed attempts by the doctors to restart his heart.Just like this, in the summer of 2003, the soccer community across the world had witnessed live the death of Marc-Vivien Foé in what might be one of the most shocking moments in soccer history.
Ayrton Senna (Formula One):
One of the greatest and most impressive racers in the history of auto sports, Brazilian superstar Ayrton Senna, was killed in an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. This is undoubtedly one of the most shocking deaths in the history of any sport and Senna remains to-date the greatest driver to have been killed in a Formula One World Championship event.
The Munich Air Disaster (Football):
Another incident that happened off the field but the impact of which still resonates to this very day, the Munich Air Disaster brings tears to the eyes of even most hard-hearted souls. It is undoubtedly one of the worst sports tragedies in British history and one of the worst in European football. On February 6, 1958, British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in West Germany, which caused the death of twenty of the forty-four passengers on-board. The injured, some unconscious, were taken to the nearest hospital where three more died, resulting in twenty-three dead. The vast majority of them were players of English club Manchester United.
The Munich Massacre:
The Munich massacre will always be remembered as the darkest moment in the history of the Olympics. During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage and eventually murdered, along with a German police officer by a Palestinian group named Black September. The German police killed five of the eight Black September members as well. The most significant sporting event in the world, which celebrates the union of all peoples and nations across the globe, had been tainted with the blood of the dead athletes.
The former India international was hit on the head while fielding during a club match in Dhaka. Standing at short-leg close to the batsman, the opener sustained serious brain injuries and went into a coma three days after the incident before being pronounced dead.
An entire football team killed by lightning:
Football tragedy took a turn for the surreal in 1999 when a single stroke of lightning killed a whole soccer team. The eleven players were all between twenty and thirty-five years old. This freak accident happened during a match held in the eastern province of Kasai, in Congo. The strangest thing was that the players from the home team came out of this tragedy unscathed.