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The sad story of Abdelhak Nouri

AFC Ajax v Panathinaikos FC - UEFA Europa League
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Do you remember Abdelhak Nouri? The talented youngster of AFC Ajax, who collapsed during a friendly match against Werder Bremen two years ago.

Abdelhak Nouri was born on 2 April 1997 in Amsterdam to parents of Moroccan descent. He joined the Ajax Youth Academy at the age of eight and played through various age levels in his career as a youth player.

The youngster also represented Holland’s youth teams, establishing himself as a future star in football. In 2014, he was named as one of the best 40 youth players by The Guardian.

As many of the players who graduate at the Ajax academy, Nouri made his professional debut for the debut side, Jong Ajax. His first-team debut came on 21 September 2016 in a KNVB Cup match against Willem II, netting one goal in a 5-0 victory.

Nouri played nine games in Eredivisie in the 2016-17 campaign but spent the most of it in the reserve team, guiding Jong Ajax to the second place in second-tier Dutch football. He noted 10 goals and 11 assists in 26 games and was named as the Eerste Divisie Player of the Season.

And when the future seemed to be bright for the 20-year old midfielder, a real disaster happened. Nouri was with the first-team during the pre-season in the summer of 2017, when he played a friendly game against Werder Bremen on July 8.

The youngster collapsed on the field during the game, due to cardiac arrhythmia and was taken to the hospital by a trauma helicopter, where his condition was announced as stable.

Five days later, however, Ajax reported that Nouri had suffered severe and permanent brain damage as a direct result of the incident and was placed in an induced coma.

In January, Dutch media revealed that his collapse was caused by heart rhythm problems, a condition which was discovered in the youngster as far back as 2014 through a Dutch FA (KNVB) screening. The doctors, however, decided the condition was harmless and they’ve never informed his family about the discovery.

Almost a year after the accident, Ajax released a statement, saying that the medical treatment Nouri received on the field was “inadequate”. Part of the statement addressed specific mistakes that were made on the pitch in Austria.

“1. There was insufficient focus on the measurement of the heartbeat, the circulation, and a possible resuscitation, and for a long time focused on releasing the airway of Abdelhak.
2. The existing defibrillator should have been used earlier to get a better picture of the situation.
3. The practitioners, after releasing the airway, had to incorporate a moment of reflection because the situation did not improve.”

‘Appie’ was woken from the induced coma in August 2018 but he remained in a vegetative state. His condition is now improved though, as he has started to recognize the people around him, and is able to respond to requests and communicate with his mouth and eyebrows. But when it comes to football, unfortunately, he’ll be able to play again.

Ajax won the Eredivisie this season and dedicated the triumph to Abdelhak Nouri. The players wore a tribute to their former teammate, as his squad number perfectly fitted the 34th crown the club has won in Dutch football.

His father and brother were at the celebration on Museumplein in Amsterdam on Thursday, at the team’s invitation and were presented with the Eredivisie trophy. A trophy ‘Appie’ should have won with the club.