The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Little did I know I would be watching such a tragedy...
- Cristiano Junior, who wore the East Bengal colours not long ago, is no more

I had switched on the television hoping to see a close Federation Cup final with Mohun Bagan having the edge over Dempo. Little did I realise that I would witness history of a tragic kind on Bangalore's Kanteerava Stadium turf.

It didn't look to be a fatal collision at first sight. Having already given Dempo the lead, Junior was desperate for an insurance goal which would shut Mohun Bagan out of the final. He got his chance and took it like only he could, totally deceiving Subrata Pal.

The ball was on way to the net but by the time the tall Brazilian noticed that the goalie was on a collision course.

It was a couple of minutes later, when the TV camera focussed on medical personnel trying in vain to revive Junior, lying prostrate on the pitch, that I realised the enormity of the accident. I switched off the set praying to the Almighty that He spare this gifted footballer.

What a tragedy! A striker coming all the way from Brazil and winning hearts in India but surrendering his life in pursuit of earning his team glory.

As I struggled to come to grips with the news of his death, my mind raced back to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. India were playing Yugoslavia in the semi-final and we were trailing. A ball was floated into the box from the flank and I rose to meet it with my head. I felt a scathing pain (in the head) and the next thing I knew was that I was in hospital. The goalkeeper, in trying to fist the ball, had used his hands so furiously that I was left with a fractured skull.

I was also reminded of the 1982 World Cup semi-final when German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher rushed out, struck French striker Patrick Battiston and sent him to hospital with a brutal charge. Thankfully, the Frenchman survived. Surprisingly, Schumacher got away scot-free!

Schumacher's was a deliberate offence, not the Yugoslav custodian and Subrata Pal's. Why I am talking of these incidents in the same breath is basically to make a simple observation: strikers all over the world should be a little more concerned about their lives.

As far as I am concerned, football is an adventurous sport with a fair degree of body-contact. Every footballer runs the risk of an injury any time, but more so a striker. I am not worried about the 'safe' striker who will never endanger his life by getting desperate in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. It's the likes of Junior who scare me. Goal-hungry strikers like Junior must know when to save themselves, even at the cost of missing out on a goal.

There's another major lesson from the Junior tragedy ' it's for those who run the game in India and, indeed, around the globe. Let the federation make it mandatory for all host associations to arrange for a cardiac specialist at the ground. I know it is impossible to have such an arrangement for all matches, but at least they should think about it seriously for all games featuring the top teams.

That's the least the AIFF can do for the footballers. If the officials' memories need to be jogged, Sanjib Dutta succumbed to an on-field collision during a Santosh Trophy game, Debjit Ghosh recently had a narrow escape thanks to Dr Santi Ranjan Dasgupta's presence.

And, now, this. The game's administrators need to act right away.

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