(Adds FIFA comment)
By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A 23-year-old Indian footballer has died from severe spinal cord damage after attempting to celebrate a goal with a somersault, an official told Reuters on Monday.
Bethlehem Vengthlang FC midfielder Peter Biaksangzuala died on Sunday at a hospital in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram after the incident in Tuesday’s match in the third tier Mizoram Premier League (MPL).
“We are shocked by the case. We at the Mizoram Football Association did all we could but could not save him,” MFA secretary Lalnghinglova Hmar told Reuters by telephone.
After scoring the equaliser against Chanmari West FC, a flipping Biaksangzuala landed awkwardly and was lying unconscious as his team mates surrounded him and gestured for help.
”The association president also being the state health minister, he did all that was possible even though he was out of station.
“We considered the option to fly him to Delhi but his condition was pretty bad. He was mostly unconscious, occasionally spelling out a few words,” Hmar said.
Bethlehem has decided to retire the number 21 jersey as a tribute to Biaksangzuala while Hmar said MFA would organise a match in his memory.
FIFA said that any additional measures curbing goal celebrations would have to be approved by soccer’s rule-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB).
“This is a tragedy and we are very concerned about this incident,” said FIFA in a statement to Reuters.
“It is the responsibility of IFAB to rule on amendments to the Laws of the Game.”
FIFA added that any national association can propose a change to the rules, and the suggestion must be submitted by Dec. 1 to be considered at IFAB’s next annual general meeting.
The laws of the game currently stipulate automatic yellow cards if a player removes his shirt, covers his face with a mask, makes a provocative gesture or climbs a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal.
The laws also state: ”While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.
”Reasonable celebrations are allowed, but the practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time-wasting and referees are instructed to intervene in such cases.
“Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal.”
Last month, a player in Brazil escaped injury when he leapt into a hole as another goal celebration went wrong.
Coritiba forward Joel leapt the advertising hoardings behind the goal, unaware that there was a hole with steps leading down from the pitch to the dressing rooms.
Although he landed in the hole, his fall was softened by a tarpaulin and he was able to continue the match. (Additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Patrick Johnston and Pritha Sarkar)