Whether it be celebrating a goal or enduring defeat or relegation, football constantly evokes the deepest of emotions. It is exactly that ability to connect with people’s innermost feelings that makes the game so enthralling. "You win some, you lose some", goes the old adage. However, there are moments that produce no winner at all. One such moment occurred exactly a decade ago with the death of Miklos Feher.
On 25 January 2004, Feher was in the Benfica squad that travelled to Vitoria Guimaraes for a Portuguese league game. After being introduced from the bench, Feher had provided an assist for what looked to be the winning goal, but after receiving a yellow card in second-half injury time, the Hungarian international striker suddenly collapsed on the pitch. Team-mates and opposition players rushed to his side and frantically shouted to the touchline for medical staff to attend to him. They were unable to help the stricken man regain consciousness, however, with Feher being immediately rushed to hospital. Doctors continued their attempts to revive him, but his death, caused by a cardiac arrest, was confirmed two hours later.
“It was just over a year after the tragic death of Marc-Vivien Foe that it happened, and obviously it shocked us all that two great players could be taken from us so quickly,” FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Jiri Dvorak told FIFA.com.
“It necessitated a call to action on our part. It was decided that all footballers playing at professional or semi-professional level would have regular medical examinations, including heart check-ups. Furthermore it was made compulsory that at FIFA tournaments and their qualifying matches, a defibrillator would be present at pitchside, available for immediate use in those situations. If this were not present, the game would not be played. The last registered match where this was used was in September 2013, when FIFA’s defibrillator rule was put into action during an Asian Cup qualifying game in Kathmandu [Nepal]. The player, who was from Afghanistan, was able to receive immediate treatment and was later taken to hospital. He has since made a full recovery and has resumed playing as normal.”
In November 2006, Portugal’s most successful club hosted Scottish giants Celtic in an UEFA Champions League match, where Bhoys' supporters admirably unfurled a huge banner with the number 29 and the words: “Feher, nunca caminharas sozinho”, “Feher, you’ll never walk alone”, in reference to Celtic’s long-time unofficial motto.
The Benfica players were deeply moved by such solidarity, with Portugal international Nuno Gomes particularly overwhelmed. “It was an unforgettable moment and a wonderful gesture. A real milestone in terms of fair play,” he said after the game. The Celtic fans’ deed was yet another reminder of the football family uniting in a difficult moment and fans and players supporting one another. Benfica won the match 3-0, but the real winner that day was football itself.
Miklos Feher – we will never forget you!