Harworth football coach urges others to learn CPR after tragic dad dies playing football, aged 39
The world watched in horror as Danish footballer Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed on the pitch during the Euro 2020 opener last Saturday but it was also an image that brought terrifying flashbacks to one man.
Football coach Stephen Fletcher was 13 when his father, also named Stephen Fletcher, died of a sudden cardiac arrest in June 1988 while playing in a football tournament. He was 39.
Now 46, and actively involved in physical sports, the father-of-three calls for more people to learn the basic skills of first aid because anyone could help save another person's life one day.
He said: "I was only 13 when my dad suffered sudden cardiac arrest when playing football. When I spoke to my mum about it, I don't think he had much help, he collapsed while playing football and nobody knew what to do or recognised anything was really wrong.
"They thought he was playing around. They didn't realise he suffered a cardiac arrest. We've seen more of it now, with Christian Eriksen and there's been some other incidents, of young men even teenagers suffering similar incidents."
Steve, a football coach at Harworth Colliery, said he would push for First Aid training whenever he can as it could happen to anyone, even those who are not actively involved in physical activities.
"You can be shopping when something happens..if it happens to me, I'm aware of it but I try to educate myself as much as I can.
"This is a serious thing now and I think that needs to be pushed. These are professional footballers who are monitored and screened and they have a team telling them what to eat and how to exercise.
"If it can happen to them, they're lucky the fact that they've got people around them that could respond in seconds. Then what help is there for the rest of us?" he said.
Steve said basic first aid training such as CPR teaches people on what to do when somebody collapses, putting them in the recover position and the theory behind the compression on the chest.
He added: "It should be pushed more. I don't think it should take something to happen to have a reaction."
He said that if his father had collapsed today then he would have still been alive now that more people are aware of the first aid training.
"But he’s not lived,” said Steve. "I was 13, my brother was 10 and my little sister was about seven or eight. So he missed out on us growing up, getting married and on his grandchildren.
"If it happened today, honestly, if he had a heart attack, he’d have still been in bed in hospital. Still ill, but on his road to recovery. He’d have been here.”
Steve also stressed the importance of the first aid training, by highlighting a 2016 incident involving a French footballer David Ginola, who suddenly collapsed due to cardiac arrest during a match and then fell into a coma.
He however survived thanks to a quick response by fellow footballer Frédéric Mendy.
"He died for nine minutes, but survived because his teammate did CPR on him and kept the oxygen on his brain,” said Steve.