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Italian football divided on medical progression since the death of Piermario Morosini

Dylan Fahy
Udinese fans show a banner  300x225 Italian football divided on medical progression since the death of Piermario Morosini

Udinese fans show a banner draped in mourning as they pay tribute to Piermario Morosini

Italy remembered a dark day in its sporting history when the mayor of Pescara Luigi Albore Mascia was joined by the leader of the province of Abruzzo, Guerino Testa, the president of the local club, Daniele Sebastiani and the head of CONI (Italian Olympic Sporting Committee) in the region, Enzo Imbastaro, and many others at the Stadio Adratico last week to commemorate the tragic death of Piermario Morosini.

Mascia unveiled a placard dedicating the away end of the stadium to the Livorno midfielder, who suffered cardiac arrest during a Serie B encounter with Pescara exactly a year ago. Medics rushed to treat the on-loan Udinese man, but he was pronounced dead before reaching Santo Spirito hospital. Chaos ensued when it became evident a police car was blocking the ambulance’s entrance for a minute. Marco Verratti was forced to run outside for a stretcher. His passing sent shock waves around the peninsula.

“This is a small gesture, we must not forget that day that shocked Italy as a young man was taken from us far too soon,” asserted Mascia on a 25-year-old with an equally desperate childhood – he was orphaned as a teenager before his disabled brother committed suicide and he was left to care for his other disabled sister. Udinese legend Antonio Di Natale nobly became the legal guardian of the Bergamo native’s handicapped sister. Italy mourned a notably positive man, despite his challenging personal situation.

Twelve months on from Morosini’s death, many have been evaluating the medical progression made by the authorities and what have been the lasting repercussions for Italian football. Several of the immediate decisions taken by those present and a distinct lack of medical equipment in particular have been debated. Detecting any possible medical complications ahead of time have also been put back on the agenda.

The former Italy Under-21 international collapsed after the half hour mark, and Pescara medic Ernesto Sabatini and chief cardiologist of the local hospital Leonardo Paloscia – who happened to be in the stands – were the first people to treat him. The lack of a defibrillator on site sparked outrage in the aftermath of his death, despite the pair claiming the device would not have made a difference in his particular case – a mere month after Fabrice Muamba was saved in a similar situation while representing Bolton Wanderers.

“Millions of euros spent on turnstiles, identification cards and turnstiles, but not a defibrillator anywhere in sight for Morosini,” screamed banners from Pisa ultras at their subsequent domestic outing. The Tuscan outfit, traditionally arch rivals of the deceased midfielder’s Livorno, in a moment of solidarity with their neighbors, instead targeted the blame at the door of the FIGC (Italian Football Federation).

The campaign highlighted the governing body’s lack of spending on medical infrastructure, in contrast to the significant sums pushed towards perceived harsh policing of fans at stadiums across the country.

Improvement in early detection was also cited as an area to be revaluated. Following the Muamba incident, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was adamant such a case near impossible in his homeland due to its highly accurate and stringent testing. “We have the most severe and rigorous system in the world, and it is impossible to imagine checks any more strict than the ones that are already in place,” commented Rome-based cardiologist Eugenio Martuscelli in La Repubblica at the time.

General opinions across Italy are divided as to whether progress has been made in the last year, with the media hanging on a continuing debate between professionals. CONI president Giovanni Malago insists steps have been taken: “The Balduzzi decree (a legislature centering on sports clubs and medicine) has improved the situation and opened an important issue on the anniversary Morosini’s death. Above all, we must prevent our youngsters from looking towards all types of drugs to solve any medical problems.”

“Something has certainly changed,” insists Piero Volpi, former-Inter Milan medic and advisor for the Italian Footballers Association (AIC). “We have put more emphasis on the defibrillator, and training medics.” Head of the cardiology unit in Piacenza, a town that has long had a history of heart issues, and a vocal ambassador for the Project for Life Sport, Doctor Daniela Aschieri disagrees. “There has been very little done,” she reveals, “unfortunately there is a lot of talk but its is essentially a cultural problem.”

Livorno retired the No. 25 as one of a number of tributes before Pescara dedicated their away end to him. The medical debate will undoubtedly drag on, but Italy must not forget a life that was tragically taken away prematurely. We live in hope that Morosini’s legacy will be on of a positive person who fought through adversity, and whose death inspired a deep-rooted change in absolute health of footballers.

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