Sheffield man urges others to learn CPR after tragic dad dies playing football, aged 39

The world watched in horror as Danish footballer Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed on the pitch during the Euro 2020 opener last Saturday but it was also an image that brought terrifying flashbacks to a Sheffield man.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 12:13 pm

Football coach Stephen Fletcher was 13 when his father, also named Stephen Fletcher, died of a sudden cardiac arrest in June 1988 while playing in a football tournament at Concorde. He was 39.

Now 46 and actively involved in physical sports, the father-of-three calls for more people to learn the basic skills of First Aid because anyone could help save another person's life one day.

He said: "I was only 13 when my dad suffered sudden cardiac arrest when playing football. When I spoke to my mum about it, I don't think he had much help, he collapsed while playing football and nobody knew what to do or recognised anything was really wrong.

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Footballer Stephen Fletcher collapsed when he was about to take a penalty kick during a tournament. Picture by his son, Stephen Fletcher.

"They thought he was playing around. They didn't realise he suffered a cardiac arrest. We've seen more of it now, with Christian Eriksen and there's been some other incidents, of young men even teenagers suffering similar incidents."

Steve, a football coach at Harworth Colliery, said he would push for First Aid training whenever he can as it could happen to anyone, even those who are not actively involved in physical activities.

"You can be shopping when something happens..if it happens to me, I'm aware of it but I try to educate myself as much as I can.

"This is a serious thing now and I think that needs to be pushed. These are professional footballers who are monitored and screened and they have a team telling them what to eat and how to exercise.

The newspaper clipping about his father's death. Picture by Stephen Fletcher.

"If it can happen to them, they're lucky the fact that they've got people around them that could respond in seconds. Then what help is there for the rest of us?" he said.

Steve said the basic First Aid training such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) teaches people on what to do when somebody collapses, recovering position and the theory behind the compression on the chest.

He added: "It should be pushed more...I don't think it should take something to happen to have a reaction."

He said that his father would have still been alive today now that more people are aware of the First Aid training.

"But he’s not lived. I was 13, my brother was 10 and my little sister was about seven or eight. So he missed out on us growing up, getting married and on his grandchildren.

"If it can happen today, honestly, if he had a heart attack, he’d have still been in bed in hospital, still ill but on his road to recovery. He’d have been here.”

He also stressed the importance of the First Aid training, by highlighting a 2016 incident involving a French footballer David Ginola, who suddenly collapsed due to cardiac arrest during a match and then fell into a coma.

He however survived thanks to a quick response by fellow footballer Frédéric Mendy.

"He died for nine minutes, but survived because his teammate did CPR on him and kept the oxygen on his brain,” said Steve.