How a new conspiracy – about the Covid-19 vaccine causing players to collapse on the pitch – has taken hold.
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today… Sergio Aguero and the anti-vaxxers.
Sergio Aguero will be remembered for years to come for one of the Premier League’s most exciting moments.
“It’s finished at Sunderland. Manchester United have done all they can. A Rooney goal was enough for the three points. Manchester City are still alive here. Balotelli… Aguero! I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again!”Sky Sports
His last-minute winner of course saw Man City snatch the league title from rivals Man United.
But now, at the age of 33, his career is in doubt.
At the end of October, Aguero, now at Barcelona, suffered a cardiac arrhythmia on the pitch – that’s an irregular heartbeat.
“Bit distressing to hear the news over the weekend about Sergio Aguero. Playing for Barcelona and then suddenly going down clutching his chest in the match against Alaves. He received treatment for several minutes and was helped off the pitch. This happened, Danny, just before half-time.”talkSPORT
After Christian Eriksen almost lost his life on the pitch during last summer’s Euros due to a heart attack, you can understand why we – players and fans – are concerned.
Anecdotally, it seems like there has been an increase in emergencies on the pitch.
And if you look in the comments sections on social media posts about these events you’ll see that there are some who think there’s a link to vaccines against Covid-19.
Sheffield United were on the receiving end of those comments when their midfielder, John Fleck, fell to the ground in an off-the-ball incident in November.
The club was forced to state that his fall was due to a separate medical issue… not the vaccine.
“Yeah it was worrying. I seen it when I got in last night from training. And I text him this morning to see if everything was OK. And he said he had scans and whatever last night. Tests. And they came back fine. So he got discharged from hospital this morning so glad to hear that cos it’s worrying when you see an ex-teammate obviously collapse on the pitch.”Go Radio
Fleck is expected to return to action next week.
But is there any evidence to back claims that these incidents are on the rise? And that it’s the vaccine that’s causing them?
Two large studies in Israel have looked into cases of myocarditis, that’s inflammation of the heart muscle, following the Pfizer jab.
One found that in a cohort of five million people, just 136 were affected by the condition – and in the vast majority of cases, mildly only.
In the other study – which involved two-and-a-half million people – there were 54 cases.
We should be reassured.
But that hasn’t stopped some prominent ex-footballers connecting incidents on the pitch – like Eriksen’s and Ageuero’s – with the rollout of the vaccine.
This despite the Inter Milan chief, Beppe Marotta, telling the press that Eriksen had not even been vaccinated.
FIFA say that they are unaware of any increase in cardiac arrests on the pitch – and they’re unaware of any case being attributed to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Of course it’s alarming when we see a seemingly fit footballer in distress. The Bolton midfielder, Fabrice Muamba, suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch in 2012.
“Just not far from the halfway line, I think on the right-hand side of the pitch, there was nobody around me. And I just fell down, collapsed. My vision had become very blurry when I was running around. So if I get to see where you are right now, I’d see double vision of you. So all of a sudden I just went [thud] and that was it. That was the last time I was able to play eleven-a-side with professional guys.”talkSPORT
More tragically still, Fiorentina’s Davide Astori died in a hotel room after suffering a heart attack in his sleep in 2018.
Of course, neither his case nor Fabrice Muamba’s had anything to do with Covid.
But what they, and the cases of Christian Erikssen and Sergio Aguero, tell us is that football must be ready when bad things happen.
Specifically, that means first aid training for people on the touchline and having to hand life-saving equipment, like defibrillators – whether that’s at elite level or at the grass roots.
Football would do better to follow the example of Manchester City, which has donated 26 defibrillators to small clubs in their area.
What it doesn’t need is ill-informed, unscientific scaremongering.
Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.