Former All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen remembers the moment like it was yesterday.
The year was 2013 and Nelsen was playing for Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup against Blackburn Rovers when Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a sudden cardiac arrest in front of a full house at White Hart Lane.
“I remember Fabrice just falling over and literally lying face down on the field,” said Nelsen. “It was a person absolutely fighting for his life.”
The 23-year-old Muamba collapsed and as the stadium fell silent and medical staff huddled around him, the match was abandoned. Muamba’s heart stopped beating for 78 minutes. He was given 15 defibrillation shocks in all: two on the pitch, one in the tunnel and 12 in the ambulance. “Next thing you knew there was hope,” said Nelsen.
Three years on from witnessing one of football’s great cardiac arrest survival stories, Nelsen is promoting a New Zealand Football-led initiative to put AEDs (Automated External Defibrillator) into football clubs around New Zealand.
NZ Football, with the support of ACC SportSmart and F-Marc, are pleased to launch the Smart Start – AEDs in Clubs Programme which includes comprehensive resources, educational and policy support.
“New Zealand Football has a vision for all football clubs throughout NZ to have an AED,” said Megan Crockett, the NZ Football National Injury Prevention Manager.
“We are excited to announce our Smart Start – AEDs in Clubs Programme which is the first step of building safer communities who are prepared to deal with sudden cardiac arrest both with AEDs and the education to take action.”
Nelsen did not hesitate when he was asked to support the campaign which will help save New Zealanders lives.
“Every club needs a plan and a defibrillator. It could be your mate you are saving,” he said.
The need for AEDs in football clubs came into the spotlight again this week when two players died from cardiac arrest in Europe – Shaw Lane defender Daniel Wilkinson (26) collapsed during a cup game at Brighouse Town’s St Giles Road stadium and died and former French international Ben Idrissa Derme (34) passed away during a game in France.
Football is the largest participation sport in New Zealand and as a result cardiac arrests from the elite to the participant athletes are a significant threat.
Dr Mark Fulcher, the Medical Director at New Zealand Football, believes the Smart Start – AEDs in Clubs Programme is a great step towards building safer communities and encouraged all football clubs to make the investment.
“It is vital that every football club in New Zealand has a defibrillator and an action plan and it is up to football clubs to make this a priority,” said Dr Fulcher. “We know that AEDs save lives, we have seen that both here and overseas and every football club can prevent deaths in their club by making this subsidised and much-needed investment.”
Earlier this year Geoff Brogan suddenly collapsed when he suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Western Springs Football Club in Auckland.
“There was a chance for a ball to come in and I starting running and that is when the light changed, my legs wouldn’t work and I felt myself falling,” he said remembering the moment.
“I thought he is gone this is the last time that I am going to see Geoff. Boom shock and then we got back that heartbeat,” one of his friends added.
Brogan added: “It is vital to have an AED at every sports club. It saves lives. Without it I wouldn’t be here,” Brogan added.
The objective is to support all New Zealand Football Clubs and Associations in NZ to have an AED unit and programme accessible to their club members, players and spectators, with the education and support to enable them to react should an event a rise.
The launch sees 60 fully funded Smart Start AED units to football clubs per year for 2016, 2017 and 2018. NZ Football Quality Club Mark (QCM) Clubs that meet and hold the current revised QCM standards, plus National League Clubs qualify to receive a fully funded Smart Start AED Unit and Programme in 2016.
All other NZ Football affiliated clubs throughout New Zealand that currently do not meet the revised QCM criteria are able to purchase a discounted and subsidised AED unit through this initiative and programme.
New Zealand Football will provide all other football clubs the ability to access the discounted and subsidised Smart Start AED programme and units, with the support of FIFA’s AED supplier ZOLL International.
The Smart Start – AEDs in Clubs Programme is one of a number of initiatives led by the NZ Football Injury Prevention team. New Zealand Football has partnered with ACC SportSmart and FIFA to implement the FIFA 11+ warm up and injury prevention programme with seven Injury Prevention managers in the Federations around the country.