In what comes as more shocking news than India's poor FIFA ranking is how professional footballers in India do not even have access to emergency medical facilities on the pitch...While the state of football often is on the receiving end of media monikers like 'dismal' and 'shambolic' in terms of on field performances, such terms would be more useful in highlighting the lack of basic on field infrastructure and life saving facilities which can often mean the difference between life and death as it was found out yesterday in Bangalore, leading to the tragic death of a 28 year old local football player in Bangalore, D Venkatesh.
During a local tournament, he died on the pitch due to lack of proper emergency care on the ground. A player for a local outfit, Bangalore Mars, he had come on as a substitute against opponents South Western Railway. He fell on ground within minutes of being on, and highlighting the dismal treatment meted out, he was carried to the hospital in an auto-rickshaw instead of an ambulance. Contrast this to how Fabrice Muamba was saved from certain death due to the urgency shown by the paramedics.
Mr Dhanraj, Venkatesh's father, was present when he saw his son collapse and took him to the Hosmat hospital, lamented on how there was lack of even basic amenities.
"We had to carry him. Even a stretcher there was in poor condition. I found an auto to shift him to a hospital There was no medical team present, nor was there a first-aid kit available on the stadium during the match."
This was not something new in the country which calls itself rapidly progressing. In 2009 a Manipuri striker was hurt during a super division league match and died later in the hospital.
And back in 2005, promising footballer, Cristiano Junior had died on the field on December 5 during a Federation Cup match.
As usual the authorities are playing the blame game. The Karnataka Football Association sources are sure that an ambulance is always present in the ground. The players however have called these statements a mere 'joke'
Krishna Narayanan, General Secretary of the Karnataka Football Association however claimed that this was a rare occasion when a match was held without an ambulance
"Without ambulance we never will conduct a match in the future. We have been doing it that way. This match we didn't have one only because there was some drainage work because of which roads were blocked."
The players talk of a different reality. They have dismissed the associations claim on the availability of an ambulance and have alleged that the lower league match players are given a 'step-motherly' treatment.
Baba Das, a midfielder has rubbished the claims of an ambulance being ever present at the matches.
"It is not true that ambulances are always there. Even a medical doctor or nurse is never there,"
Joshua Victor, a striker also highlighted the extent of mismanagement when it comes to football in India
"When we are hurt, however serious the injury may be, we only get ice cubes to keep on the injury."
The All India Football Federation said that it has launched an inquiry into the incident.
Federation secretary Kushal Das said AIFF was studying all the reasons as to why an ambulance wasn't available.
"We have asked the Karnataka state association to give us a detailed report on the incident. We need to understand why an ambulance was not available,
Meanwhile, the Karnataka State Football Association has announced a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to Venkatesh's family.
However no amount of compensation can get the life of an individual back. And yesterday was another black day in Indian football not because India lost to DPR Korea 4-0 but because a life was lost due to negligence.