AMSTERDAM – Ajax Amsterdam’s Dutch Eredivisie away game against RKC Waalwijk was abandoned in the 84th minute on Saturday after RKC goalkeeper Etienne Vaessen was knocked out in a clash with an opposing player.
Vaessen, 28, went down after a collision with Ajax forward Brian Brobbey, causing panicked reactions from his teammates as they frantically called for medical help.
Screens were put up around the goalkeeper to shield him from the public eye and players from both sides watched with tears in their eyes as a defibrillator was rushed on to the field.
Vaessen lay motionless on the field for minutes before he was carried away on a stretcher. Both teams went inside and after deliberations, the game was called off.
The stadium announcer explained that several players were “too affected to continue playing”.
Said RKC director Frank van Mosselveld: “He regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital. Etienne was out for a while. A big compliment to the medical people who immediately followed the protocol and started resuscitation.
“It was a shock for the bystanders because then you immediately think it’s a heart problem. It doesn’t seem like that now.
“Etienne was knocked out for a while. The medical people immediately started resuscitation, but it does not look like a heart problem. When he was taken off the field, he was awake again, but he did not know where he was.
“Obviously this has a huge impact. It was quite a shock. It also looked serious with the sheets and shielding.”
In a statement put out by RKC after the interview, they said: “We can announce that, after extensive medical examination, he is conscious and has been transported to hospital for further examination. We wish Etienne a lot of strength and hope to have him with us again soon.”
Ajax were leading the game 3-2 when play was stopped. Their previous match against Feyenoord was also halted due to crowd trouble, before being resumed behind close doors on Wednesday.
“This is about more than football,” Ajax wrote on X, which was formerly Twitter. “Praying you’re okay, Etienne.”
Immediately after the match, several rival clubs such as PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord sent messages of support to the goalkeeper via social networks.
Former Ajax player Christian Eriksen, a key player for Denmark, collapsed on the pitch against Finland in June 2021 during the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and had to be resuscitated in front of a stunned Copenhagen crowd and a television audience of millions.
On the way to hospital, he told his wife Sabrina that he would probably never play football again but despite his cardiac arrest, he fought his way back to fitness.
The 30-year-old had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator fitted and resumed his career at Brentford, before joining Manchester United in 2022. REUTERS, AFP