Comment – Tragic waste

SINCE THE Munich air disaster, which robbed Manchester United of some of their finest young players almost 40 years ago, footballers have been dicing with death in fast cars they are not qualified to drive.

Laurie Cunningham ended his brilliant career in a fatal crash on Spain’s Costa del Sol and Jermaine Pennant is the most recent addition to a long list of prominent footballers banned from the road in England.

Portugal is not exempt from this senseless love affair with speed on four wheels. In 1990, Porto ‘keeper Zé Beto died at the height of his career, aged 29, when speeding, a fate that also befell clubmate Rui Filipe, 26, four years later. Sporting’s Russian star Sergei Cherbakov was paralysed from the waist down in a head-on collision in 1993 when over the legal alcohol limit and Ukrainian Porto striker Sergei Iuran was involved in a serious accident in that city the following year. Last week, it was again a Porto star, José Bosingwa, who steered his BMW X5 off the road and down an almost ten metre deep ravine in wet conditions just after midnight. The jeep was a write-off although all five occupants managed to crawl clear of the burning vehicle. Bosingwa himself and fellow players Edu and Jaime Linares only suffered minor injuries while Boavista’s Nelson, whose speed and technique have made him a one million euro transfer target this season, should make a full recovery from a more serious leg injury. But for the fifth passenger, 21-year-old Sandro Luis, the game is over. The former national junior champion, who has been in Boavista’s starting 11 during the past two seasons, lost his right foot. He is married, his wife is heavily pregnant, his blossoming career has been ended prematurely. Tragic, stupid, wasteful. When will footballers ever learn and how will Bosingwa live with himself while continuing to grace the pitch?