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Humanity over Rivalry: Footballer Who Has Saved the Life of Opponents on 4 Different Occasions

Hassan Odunayo Ruth

"I am a Christian, I pray a lot, I fast a lot so I think God is trying to give me a message. Maybe I am a little angel sent by him. There are some people now who see me as an angel . I have a lot of messages like this. I say 'I am just Kone Francis and it is God who is doing this, not me."

Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear football jerseys. Or should I just say Francis Kone is a superhero who wears football jersey? Well, that's what it is. Togolese International, Francis Kone in 2017 saved the life of opponent goalkeeper Martin Berkovec, making it the fourth time he'd be saving the life of an opposing player in just 6 years. He did so by being the quickest to react after Berkovec was knocked out by one of his own players in a collision while launching for a ball, putting his fingers into the Bohemian stopper's mouth to prevent him from swallowing his tongue. 

Recalling the incident which occured in a Czech top-flight clash between Bohemians 1905 and Slovacko. A game where Kone suffered racial abuses from some Bohemian fans in the opening 30 minutes of the game, poisonously marking Kone’s every touch with cries of 'monkey', he said: 

"I saw the defender was moving, so I was not worried about him, but the goalkeeper was still, lying on his back, and I could see the whites of his eyes. They were rolling in his head. He was either unconscious or worse. So I planted one foot across his chest to keep his left arm tightly in. sometimes the body can convulse, becomes really strong, and you can’t always control it. I then tried to force my fingers into his mouth. The jaw was locked tight, but I had to make sure he had not swallowed his tongue. The clock was ticking."

Kone's swift intervention was critical before support staffs got on the pitch. But unlike the last 3 incidents (Once in Thailand- 2011 and twice in Abidjan- 2013 and 2015) where there were absence of TV cameras or any publicity, Kone received global acclaim. In October 2017, during FIFA's annual 'THE BEST' award ceremony in London, he received the FIFA Fair Play Award in recognition of the heroic act. Reacting after receiving the award which dedicated to his mother, Kone believed the award would help combat the scourge of racism:

 "I was very surprised. It was like a dream but it is a message. Fair play means something like this too- to stop racism, this is fair play. I know what they said because they called my club to apologise. They said thanks because I saved one of their players. They apologised because they were saying bad things, like monkey and many other things. It's not normal to treat a person like a monkey - it's incorrect. Football is fair play and I showed them that. Football is not what they are doing with racism. They have to stop it. For me, that's the message."

For Kone, it was from racial abuse to widespread applause but it's really sad that 3 years on, racism is still very much active in Football and the World in general. While Berkovec's teammates stood and watched, it was Kone who was been jeered by the fans that reacted quickest, humanity over rivalry and racism!

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Berkovec Bohemian Francis Kone Hassan Odunayo Ruth Martin Berkovec


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