RKC goalkeeper Etienne Vaessen regains consciousness after on-field collapse
RKC Waalwijk goalkeeper Etienne Vaessen was conscious again when he was taken to an area hospital on Saturday after a collision with Ajax striker Brian Brobbey. "But he had no idea what had happened," said the team's general manager, Frank van Mosselveld, in an update after the match was suspended. "It doesn't look like a heart problem."
The goalkeeper was revived on the field in a frightening moment towards the end of the Eredivisie match. He was "completely" knocked out, Van Mosselveld said. "He was unresponsive, and the medical protocol is to then proceed with resuscitation. These rules have been tightened after the events surrounding Abdelhak Nouri."
In July 2017, Nouri went into cardiac arrest while playing for Ajax during a practice match in Austria. The midfielder suffered serious and permanent brain damage as a result. Ajax later admitted that the medical care on the field was insufficient, and the club also acknowledged liability as his employer for the consequences. The team settled with Nouri's family for 7,850,000 euros, and has continued to pay the costs of Nouri 's nursing and care since the incident.
"The positive thing was that he recovered on the field. He was then treated in the dressing room and then taken to the hospital. All kinds of scans are now being carried out there, let's hope they are positive," Van Mosselveld said late on Saturday night.
The incident had a major impact on the players. Several players who are close to Vaessen vomited on the field, and others had a similar reaction in the locker room. "You can imagine that this has a huge impact. Even though he was awake again, there was no point in continuing to play. It was intense, what we all saw. It was quite frightening."
Vaessen was injured in the 84th minute when Ajax was leading 3-2 in Waalwijk. Officials decided to suspend the match because of the RKC players who were no longer able to continue to play.
Brobbey mishit the ball as he dribbled into the penalty area on an offensive play. As the striker prepared to made an attempt to score with a hard touch, Vaessen charged to smother the ball. Brobbey's boot struck Vaessen's left temple. The goalkeeper was immediately unconscious and was still on the field as many of his fellow players reacted in shock. Some of the players appeared to panic as an attempt to revive Vaessen was started.
Vaessen was carried off the field on a stretcher after about 5 minutes. Several eyewitnesses said they saw that the goalkeeper was conscious when he was carried into an ambulance.
Ajax seemed to be on its way to victory until Vaessen's worrying injury
Dutch football association KNVB must now decide how to proceed, which is complicated by the Amsterdam team's participation in the Europa League. Ajax will play an away match with AEK Athens on Thursday.
Additionally, Ajax's match against FC Volendam, which was scheduled for last Wednesday, was moved to November 2. Ajax - FC Volendam was postponed because the Amsterdam club's match against Feyenoord was suspended when Ajax fans threw fireworks on the pitch. The remainder of that match was finished in an empty stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
Before the incident, Ajax seemed to be on its way to an Eredivisie victory again, though Ajax lost the lead twice in Waalwijk. The Amsterdam club's performance was riddled with errors, though trainer Maurice Steijn said his players worked hard, and did not disappoint him.
He acknowledged just before kick-off that he has not yet completed his quest to create the strongest team possible. He is mainly trying to find a solution for the many opportunities that his team keeps giving away. That's why Gastón Avila got a chance at center back, and Jorrel Hato played as a left back.
Still, Ajax's defense remained vulnerable at times. Josip Sutalo lost the ball at several moments in a dangerous position. The relief among the Ajax players was visible when Brobbey scored with a devastating strike in the 30th minute on a pass from Carlos Forbs.
The same Forbs earned some of the dubious credit for allowing Aaron Meijers to send a cross to Michiel Kramer in the 37th minute, when Kramer scored the equalizer for the home team. It was a good thing that RKC had hung a net in front of the stands where the Ajax fans were gathered. As a result, the objects and beverages thrown by the fans did not wind up on the field.
The fans who traveled to Waalwijk repeatedly chanted for the departure of the members of the supervisory board. Ajax entered the match in 14th place in the Eredivisie after a sullen start to the season that saw them win once and lose twice in its first five games of the season.
Forbs made up for his mistake with the equalizer just before half-time. He earned a penalty, which was converted by Steven Bergwijn (1-2). But even in the lead, Ajax continued to fumble. Goalkeeper Jay Gorter misjudged a free kick in the 51st minute that allowed Yassin Oukili to score (2-2). Six minutes later, Steven Berghuis put Ajax back ahead, making the match 3-2.
The incident that caused the match to be suspended happened less than 30 minutes later.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times