Soccer Player Incurs Actual Injury; FIFA to Develop Procedures
Zurich, Switzerland (AP) – After more than a century of players faking injury on the soccer pitch, last week a player suffered actual physical harm during a game, and neither the game officials nor the team personnel were prepared. In response, FIFA, the sport’s governing body, has promised to develop procedures in case such an incident happens again.
In a game between Barcelona and Juventus, Barcelona striker Alfonso Peña was attempting to wrest control of the ball from an opponent, and when the latter extricated himself successfully, Peña did as professional soccer players are trained to do: he fell down grasping his lower leg, hoping the officials would find the display worthy of an infraction for the opposing player.
However, through circumstances that remain unclear, Peña suffered a bona fide fracture to his left fibia, and has been sidelined for several weeks while the bone heals and he undergoes rehabilitation. Team officials have had to scramble to meet the player’s unexpected medical needs, as emergency treatment resources for professional athletes within the various FIFA member associations seldom extend beyond massage. Realizing that the situation lay beyond their capacity to address, the referees and Barcelona personnel had to summon an ambulance.
“This was new to us,” Alejandro Muñoz, the ambulance crew chief, was quoted later as telling a local newspaper. “When you get a call to treat someone at the football stadium, your first thought is that it’s some stupid fan who fell, or got injured in a fight – but a real, live, player getting hurt? It just doesn’t happen. It was all we could do to remember that he was genuinely hurt, and not to ask him for an autograph.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has promised an investigation, including the use of instant replay, to discover what exactly went wrong. “We do not yet know for certain whether the fracture occurred at the moment Peña went down, but that will be the preliminary focus of our inquiry,” he said in a statement released yesterday. Focusing on that moment makes the most sense, explained the statement, given that moments before, the player had been running, jumping and comparing his opponents’ mothers to women of ill repute, with no sign of impairment or discomfort. However, Sepp noted that no reasonable lines of investigation will be left unexplored.
He also said that he had assigned a task force to take the eventual results of the investigation and develop preventive procedures to ensure that an actual injury does not recur. “FIFA is not accustomed to having its players subject to rough treatment,” he noted.
Sepp declined to answer questions regarding the fate of Miskitas Tankakis, the Juventus player involved in the scrum with Peña. “Since we have not yet determined whether anyone in particular is to blame for this unprecedented event, it would be premature to speculate on any disciplinary measures to take against any possible guilty parties,” he told reporters earlier.
Peña himself has said he cannot judge whether Tankakis caused his injury. “I did the ‘wounded’ dance we always practice, but something felt wrong right after I landed,” he said during a radio interview on Friday. “I’ve never felt such pain in my life. We footballers aren’t used to pushing our bodies very far, so I had no idea what was going on. It’s a very delicate sport, football. We players are dainty.”
He said he only other time he ever felt pain anywhere close to the same intensity was seeing a matador get gored in the testicles fifteen years ago. “That still hurts when I think about it,” he said.
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