By Adetola A. Kehinde

With anticipation, fans gathered at the 40,000-seat capacity of Stade de la Paix in Bouake, the second-largest city in Côte d’Ivoire, to watch the semi-final match between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Bafana Bafana of South Africa at the on-going TotalEnergies CAF African Cup of Nations. The match, which was tagged the match of Afrobeats vs. Amapiano, entered into a penalty shootout after both teams had played one-apiece, and the Super Eagles of Nigeria eventually won the match by 4-3 after the penalty shootout.

As the fans of the winning team were celebrating the outcome of the match, it didn’t take long before some Nigerian news media started reporting that a former federal lawmaker, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, slumped and died during the penalty shootout. As if that wasn’t enough, immediately after the match, the Deputy Bursar of Kwara State University (KWASU), Mr. Ayuba Olaitan Abdullahi, was also reported to have died during the match. A member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme identified as Samuel, who is serving in Adamawa State, was also reported to have died immediately after the match. Just a few minutes ago, at exactly 3:27 pm, a photojournalist covering the TotalEnergies CAF African Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire, Pooja, on his ‘X’ official handle @PoojaMedia, posted the death of a Nigerian businessman in Côte d’Ivoire, who is also the Director General of Groupe Auto Promotion, Mr. Nwoye Osondu Angus.

In the case of Mr. Ayuba Olaitan Abdullahi, it was reported that he had watched the match from the beginning until the end of the extra time, and when it was time for penalty kicks, he complained that he was feeling dizzy, so he said he needed to go back home and rest, not knowing that his BP had gone up. Unfortunately, on getting home, he collapsed and was rushed to a private hospital, where he was referred to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), and before he could be attended to, he died.

Following these ugly incidents, there is a need to raise awareness about what could be responsible for the deaths of some Nigerian football fans. Some studies have shown sporting events like football can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD) for certain die-hard fans. With the unfortunate incidents that have happened within the last 24 hours, it might not be wrong to say these fans died of related cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). A meta-analysis conducted to establish the nexus between watching football matches and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) shows that a significant correlation exists between watching football matches and increased susceptibility to fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular diseases, particularly among male viewers.

According to medical practitioners, cardiovascular disease is a group of diseases affecting the human heart and blood vessels. These diseases can affect one or many parts of your heart and/or blood vessels. A person may be symptomatic (physically experiencing the disease) or asymptomatic (not feeling anything at all). According to the British Health Foundation, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is also called heart and circulatory disease, which is an umbrella name for conditions that affect your heart or circulation. These include high blood pressure, stroke, and vascular dementia. The majority of cardiovascular events correlate with potential triggers such as strenuous physical labour, unusual mental or emotional strain, intense exercise, recent excessive alcohol intake, and overeating. As identified by the British Health Foundation, the symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD) are chest pain, weakness, or numb legs and/or arms; breathlessness, a very fast or slow heartbeat, or palpitations; feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint; fatigue; and swollen limbs. Having this in mind, it becomes pertinent for sports fans across the globe to take some precautionary measures towards reducing the healthcare burden associated with an intense sporting activity like a football match.

As the final match of the TotalEnergies CAF African Cup of Nations between the host country, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nigeria is slated for Sunday, February 11, 2024, I would like to advocate for awareness on the subject matter. Since I am not a medical practitioner, I have no authority or professional qualification to speak on the subject matter beyond that which I have stated. However, I would like to use this opportunity to reach out to the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association at all levels to create and intensify awareness on how football fans can mitigate the effects of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Adetola A. Kehinde is a writer and can be reached via kennydee055@gmail.com