At 2:45pm on Saturday, 15 minutes after kick-off in the TNM Super League tie between Be Forward Wanderers and Civil Sporting Club played at Balaka Stadium, a 23 year old midfielder, Isaac Kaliati collapsed after being elbowed by Civil’s defender, Lawrence Chaziya.
As the stadium went into a dead silence and medical staff led by the Nomads team doctor, Samuel Matukuta huddle around him, the match was temporarily stopped.
Medics spent close to six minutes trying to resuscitate him on the field of play after he fell to the ground while other players looked disturbed.
Some distressed players appeared to be praying, as fans chanted Kaliati’s name in solidarity between periods of complete silence at the stadium.
As the player was stretched-off, some fans held their heads in their hands and then an eerie of silence descended on the pitch.
Striker Peter Wadabwa stood barely 10 metres away from Kaliati when he collapsed and was seen praying for the midfielder on the pitch while he received treatment.
The skillful midfielder was rushed to Balaka District Hospital in an ambulance before the match resumed in the company of Wanderers team doctor and some officials.
The desperate scenes evoked memories of Cameroonian midfielder, Marc-Vivien Foe who died after suffering a heart attack while playing for his country during the 2003 Confederations Cup.
Be Forward Wanderers Captain, Alfred Manyozo Jnr. said Kaliati’s collapsing left players panicking and that the experience was horrifying to watch.
He said players panicked as they watched medical staff try to resuscitate their teammate.
Reflecting on what happened, Manyozo said, “What happened is almost incomprehensible. It was simply horrifying to see such a young player on the ground struggling for his life.
“I was standing about nine metres from him but I didn’t see him fall. It happened behind my back, but when I turned I immediately knew things weren’t good,” he explained.
“At that time all players on the field felt the panic as well. It was horrible to witness; it is the first time I have experienced this in my football career,” Manyozo added that, “I would like to express my sincere support to the family, team-mates and everyone who is involved with Wanderers.”
Manyozo said he was scared when he saw Kaliati lying on the pitch, noting that he was particularly scared he felt in the place of his colleague since he is young and supposedly a very fit athlete who a few seconds ago was running up and down in the field of play.
“You want to stop these thoughts but the pictures keep coming into your mind and I must say I was scared. Scared because I simply could not just figure it out that one’s life could just end like that? I could see the same questions lingering in the minds of my team-mates as well as Civil players, our bosses and their colleagues,” the captain added.
Manyozo thanked God and all medical staff led by their team doctor for their timely assistance rendered to Kaliati at such a crucial moment.
“I am happy as the captain that our friend is fine. We were devastated the whole 90 minutes since that incidence took place,” he said.
In an interview for the first time since the incidence happened, Kaliati hailed everyone who took part in his healing.
“I feel very blessed and overwhelmed by the support and prayers from family, friends, the community and people I have never met. I am not feeling well yet and hopefully, l will resume training soon,” he said on Monday at his home in Nancholi when Nomads supporters visited to cheer him up.
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