Death of Mexican International Antonio De Nigris Raises Questions

Eric GomezAnalyst INovember 20, 2009

HOUSTON - FEBRUARY 06:  Forward Antonio De Nigris #9 of Mexico during first half action against the U.S. MNT February 6, 2008 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

It was a cruel blow for Aldo de Nigris.

The Monterrey forward had just helped qualify his team to the Mexican League playoffs. Better yet, they'd be squaring off against Club América, one of the country's elite teams.

This week was supposed to be about joy.

Now, it's about pain, mourning, and reflection.

"I want to play [...] I followed in [Antonio's] footsteps, tried to follow. Maybe someday I'll be able to do what he did," said Aldo, visibly shaken during a press conference.

His brother, Mexican international Antonio de Nigris, passed away last Sunday from a heart attack in Larissa, Greece at the age of 31.

The tall forward was a true globetrotter, playing in Spain, Turkey, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, as well as Greece during a 10 year career.

Well-spoken, charismatic, and charming, Antonio was almost universally liked, a point that was clearly seen by the outpouring of tributes all over the footballing world.

Antonio played wherever he could out of necessity, not choice.

A victim of Mexico's infamous "Gentlemen's Pact," which restricts players from moving from club to club after their contract expires, Antonio de Nigris famously avoided such involuntary servitude by going abroad.

According to Antonio, one such incident involving the pact occurred when playing for Santos in Brazil back in 2006, when de Nigris got a call from Monterrey brass who informed him he belonged to the club.

De Nigris was a free agent. The dispute cost him his place at Santos, eventually settling in Turkey.

He would never return to Mexico as a footballer.

Several troubling aspects surrounding Antonio's death should lead to a further investigation of what is happening in football.

Despite the fact that this was not a death on the playing field like Serginho's, Antonio Puerta's, Marc-Vivien Foe's, or many others, was there something unchecked about his physical condition that caused his demise?

Are club doctors overlooking certain things in their patients' medical histories?

This is but the latest of active footballer deaths that have rocked the sport in the past decade, with no significant change to the way player health is monitored.

Cries for investigation from FIFA and other bodies of international sport have basically gone unheard.

Just three months earlier, RCD Espanyol captain Daniel Jarque also died suddenly. The cause? A heart attack.

In 2007, Sevilla's Antonio Puerta also succumbed to the same fate, dramatically collapsing on the pitch during a Spanish league match.

In Puerta's case, an inherited heart disease was to blame. It was never tested for.

Whatever further diagnosis of Antonio de Nigris' autopsy reveals, the burden should squarely be placed on FIFA to produce a unified health screening process for footballers.

Warnings and even restrictions should be placed on players who possess certain ailments that endanger their lives.

Nutritional supplements, exercise routines, and regenerative practices that are common in every footballer's daily routine should also be taken into account.

Clubs should be compelled to test for absolutely every condition that could hinder a footballer's performance and shorten his lifespan, including heart defects.

If the worry here is the fact that promising or established players will be forced to reevaluate their playing careers or stop entirely, consider this:

The value of a young man's life will always supersede the amount of money that said young man can generate for himself and an institution.

Aldo de Nigris can surely attest to that.


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