Football has a big influence on society, if people see the footballing world taking this medical issue seriously then the general public will follow, says retired Millwall footballer Tobi Alabi

Monday 13th July 2015

FORMER MILLWALL footballer Tobi Alabi has announced his decision to undertake a sponsored run to raise awareness following the tragic events at Whyteleafe last week.

The announcement comes after Junior Dian, 24, passed away while playing for Tonbridge Angels in a pre-season friendly at Church Road last Tuesday night.

Efforts were made to revive him by the club’s two physios (Melvin Slight of Tonbridge and Bob Hempstead of Whyeleafe) who were at the scene but the central defender passed away at St George’s Hospital in Tooting overnight.

Tonbridge Angels and Gillingham played a Tribute Match in the player’s honour at the weekend and a collection took place at Longmead Stadium with £800 being raised by shell-shocked supporters.

Maidstone Untied also raised £600 at their home pre-season friendly with League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge at the weekend.

Ilford, Essex based Dian is now the sixth footballer and the 8th sportsman to die in 2015 and this has proven to be the last straw for the frustrated Alabi.

He said: “I don’t know how many deaths it will take before we put proper heart screening procedures in place to save the lives of young athletes.

“When something like this happens everyone says ‘we need to do something’ and “this is so sad that young men are passing away’, but we must collectively start applying pressure to the powers that be!”

Alabi’s own football career ended at the age of 19, when he suffered a heart attack while playing in a friendly for Ryman League side Metropolitan Police in 2013, and he is planning to run to raise funds to acquire screening equipment for the Heart4More Foundation.

Sponsors will be asked to pledge funds on a pound per minute basis.

Alabi’s medical condition has limited his ability to participate in aerobic exercise but under medical supervision he is now permitted to undertake this challenge.

He said: “I am a believer in the saying, “Work Smart.”

“The individuals who have the power to make the change in football possible are too unmotivated to do so and thus we have to stop relying on a system that keeps letting us down and begin to work smart.  

“We don't have all the answers on the causes or prevention of sudden cardiac death, but it is long past the time to stop talking and start acting.  If the football establishment won't do the right thing, then we will.

"We can work smart and save lives by putting in place basic cardiac health awareness schemes (CPR Training, proper use of defibrillators, signs and symptoms, and preventative measures).”

Alabi went on to say that he hopes the right messages will be sent by the sponsored run.

The run will be conducted in a controlled environment, with adequate medical equipment on standby as well as paramedics ready in the unlikely event of an emergency.

He said: "The message is clear and simple, whenever any football player who hasn't had a heart screening steps out onto the pitch they take the same risk I did when I collapsed.  

“Now, when undertaking this run, I understand the risks but I will have the proper medical support on site to react to an emergency.  

“Every footballer deserves the same: proper assessment of the risks and medical support for emergencies.   

“I also call on the FA and the PFA to sponsor this run, as both organisations have a duty of care to their players and to the public. 

“Football has a big influence on society, if people see the footballing world taking this issue seriously then the general public will follow."

The run will take place on Friday 21 August 2015 at a venue and time to be confirmed.

To donate visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-heart4more-acquire-an-ecg-machine

By sponsoring you will enable #heart4more to purchase an ECG machine and in turn help them deploy our screening program on a much larger scale, reaching thousands of people.

How will screening help?

  • Identify most cardiac abnormalities.
  • Raise awareness of symptoms amongst coaches and physiotherapists.
  • Raise awareness throughout sport of the risk of Sudden Death Syndrome / Sudden Cardiac Death and highlight the families that are most at risk – particularly those that have already had a young sudden cardiac death in the family and who might not be aware that other family members must be screened.

    What's involved?
  • An Electrocardiogram (ECG), which looks at the electrical conduction pathways around the heart.
  • Small stickers known as electrodes are placed on the patient's chest and the wires connect to an ECG machine whilst you lie still.
  • A printout of the heart’s electrical activity is obtained for evaluation by the cardiologist.

 #LetsChangeTheGame #Heart4More

Meanwhile, Stephen McCartney, 38, the Editor of www.kentishfootball.co.uk, who witnessed Dian’s collapse and described it as his “worst moment in football.” has contacted Kent MP Tracey Crouch – the Minister of Sport – to demand better medical care for our semi-pro footballers.

Part of the email to the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, said: “The Premier League – soon to be boosted with a £5.1bn prize from television – should fund regular medicals for all semi-professional footballers at their nearest Premier League or Football League club.

“Non-League football is the heart and soul of the game in this country and its players deserve protection, so I hope the game changes for the better in light of last Tuesday’s tragic events.

“Kent’s non-league footballers deserve to be respected by the likes of the Manchester United’s, Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s of the world and they deserve their support.

“I sincerely hope with your football background and your Kent roots I sincerely hope you can do something positive as we all get to grips with this tragedy.”

Ms Crouch – a coach for a girls’ football team in Kent – has promised a reply.

There has been a lot of soul-searching from the players and spectators on that tragic Tuesday night.

I held back the tears as I interviewed Tonbridge Angels manager Steve McKimm following Saturday’s game against Gillingham.

Gillingham manager Justin Edinburgh has said: “The amount of money that is in Football and that can’t filter down for young semi-professional players to be screened, I just find it hard to understand and comprehend.”

Phil Babbs, a committee member of Ryman League Division One North side Cray Wanderers, witnessed the tragedy unfold at Church Road.

“Firstly, thank you for a fine report and separate article about Saturday’s game at Longmead.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over last Tuesday at Whyteleafe, the second time this summer I have seen a sportsman die on a playing field.”

Cray Wanderers club secretary, Mark Hunt added: “Cray have a committee meeting on Monday and I will make mention of Tuesday’s very unfortunate incident and if Cray are successful in obtaining permission to build on Flamingo Park then I will make sure that there are no short cuts made in terms of obtaining medical equipment and instant availability.”

Too many lives have been lost on the field - let's play our part to stop this devastating trend!

Junior Dian will be remembered for protecting the lives of semi-professional footballers and I (Stephen McCartney) will not stop this appeal until something positive is done.

Rest in Peace Junior!

Read about Tobi Alabi’s story here: www.heart4more.org.uk
 





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