Fifpro warned of harsh weather before Kalu collapsed
Samuel Kalu on Friday became the first victim of the advertised harsh weather in Egypt, during the on-going African Nations Cup when he collapsed and was rushed to hospital during a training session.
The Bordeaux forward was reported to have suffered from severe dehydration caused by the extreme temperature.
Before the cause of his ailment was clarified late on Friday, Nigerians here in Alexandria were worried that the lad, whose mother was kidnapped a couple of months ago, may have suffered a career terminating sickness. Different accounts gave different reports of what happened during the training session until Super Eagles Media Officer, Toyin Ibitoye confirmed that Kalu did not suffer any heart attack.
Temperatures at yesterday’s game between Nigeria and Burundi got up to 40C (104F) and as earlier approved by FIFA, both teams were allowed two cooling breaks during the game.
Egypt 2019 is the first time the Nations Cup is being played across June and July, with temperatures in Egypt expected to remain high over the next month.
All matches will feature three-minute heat breaks, taken in the 30th and 70th minutes, with water and cold towels provided for players and officials.
Earlier this month, world players union Fifpro expressed its concerns with the organisers’ efforts to mitigate the situation, saying the plans were insufficient. It called on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to consider delaying matches if conditions were potentially dangerous.
“We expect the heat and humidity at Afcon 2019 to be extremely challenging for players,” a Fifpro statement read. “We are particularly concerned about the seven group matches scheduled to start at 16:30 local time in Alexandria, Cairo and Suez. While we appreciate the tournament organiser has a duty to meet the scheduling of television rights holders, the health and safety of the players must come first.”
Nigeria is based in Alexandria, which has a more coastal climate and appears less problematic than in the other cities.
On the eve of this competition, CAF released the findings of a medical report on its media channel, which calculated that, with an average temperature in June and July of between 35-38C, the high WBGT would be “above 32 degrees”.
CAF said it would accommodate three-minute breaks, with cold drinks and wet towels for players and officials, in the 30th and 75th minutes, as per FIFA recommendations, if necessary. But Fifpro, while noting CAF’s advice, believes it should go further.
“We have also suggested in our letter to CAF the possibility of additional breaks in the 15th and 60th minutes based on scientific research,” Fifpro said, citing data that shows an athlete can ingest and digest a maximum of 200 250ml of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. There is no indication whether such additional breaks will be formalised.