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‘You can write down what I'm saying: there will be more deaths, this was not the last one.’ This apocalyptic statement was made by Felipe Augusto Leite, president of Safern, the Union of Professional Football Athletes of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil.


Felipe Augusto’s outburst came following the tragedy that happened on Wednesday 9 January. Neto Maranhão suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest during training and without immediate proper medical attention, arrived to the hospital only after his heart had already stop beating. The midfielder of Potiguar de Mossoró (a club from the football league of the state of Rio Grande do Norte) had turned 29 just the day before his death…


According to assistant coach Edinho Cardoso, Neto Maranhão had been training normally on Wednesday morning. Unexpectedly, the midfielder passed out during a break between the first and second training session. He was attended by his teammates. Without medical presence in the training facility, the fitness trainer and the massage therapist tried to reanimate Neto Maranhão with mouth-to mouth resuscitation and cardiac massage. They failed.


Already emotionally shocked by the whole ordeal, his teammates took Neto Maranhão in their arms to a car nearby. They drove him straight to the Regional Tarcísio Maia Hospital, which was three minutes away. Unfortunately, Neto Maranhão was pronounced dead on arrival, as affirmed by doctor Hélio Jales from the hospital. He commented that in case the medical attention to the player had happened quicker with the correct medical equipment, the chances of him surviving would have been much higher.


Born in São Domingos-MA, Neto Maranhão was an experienced player. He previously played for clubs like Santa Cruz-PE, Corintians de Caicó, Campinense-PB, Salgueiro-PE, América Mineiro and Treze de Campina Grande-PB.


Union president is furious
Outraged with what happened to Neto Maranhão and by the way he sees the Football Federation of Rio Grande (FNF) managing local football, union president Felipe Augusto Leite said he foresees more dark clouds hanging over Potiguar football pitches. ‘I am furious with all this, indignant. But do you know who the biggest culprit is? There are several, but the Federation carries the biggest blame.’


To Felipe Augusto, the death of Neto Maranhão only reignites the complaints the union has made for the past years but have been, so far, ignored. ‘We are always demanding the clubs to register and sign the player’s workers record book, and to offer dignifying working conditions, to pay the wages on time, etc. But nobody cares. The Federation hides from all this, stating it is not their responsibility, and the clubs don't care about it. And as result: they've killed the boy’, he vented.


In 2012, Safern demanded a more energetic attitude from the Public Labour Department, in order to ensure that the social obligations of clubs were fulfilled. The result was the drafting of the Conduct Adjustment Declaration (TAC) ‘which covered nothing less than the professionalization of football in the state’. Hence, all clubs were ready to take all necessary labour measures, including the medical monitoring of athletes.


There are no doctors working on a daily basis in virtually any club in the state - including Potiguar de Mossoró. According to Felipe Augusto, the situation is one of amateurism, a reality different from the big clubs from the capital. ‘The exception is ABC and also América, but even in those clubs you don't have a doctor working on some training days’, he alerted.


Felipe Augusto said he will, once again, ask in the Public Labour Department, for Potiguar clubs to comply with the law, and request from the FNF to show some ‘morality’ and organise a campaign to ensure all of its members comply with the laws and provide a safe working environment to all professionals. ‘I know the Federation does not have this kind of obligation, but it is a moral duty to do something about it. You can't just bury your head in the sand.’



Physical examinations
Contacted by the Novo Jornal last week, the manager of Potiguar Mossoró, José Neto, reported that the club was still doing medical tests on its players a few days before the beginning of the Potiguar Championship 2013. The last test would be completed last Friday. The manager admits that it is a mistake, but, aside from lacking the right conditions to perform the medical procedures at the right time, ‘no other team does’.


‘The right thing is to carry out the medical exams when the player arrives, but no one does that’. We are not in a team which has the conditions to do so, and unfortunately that is how we have to work’, he confessed.


Potiguar is not the only one, as warned by union president Felipe Augusto and Potiguar manager José Neto. This year, Palmeira de Goianinha and Corintians de Caicó - former club of Maranhão Neto - also did not perform physical examinations on their athletes.