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Football grounds ‘safe’ despite ambulance being 'locked out'

The locked gate at Mosta’s Charles Abela Stadium. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The locked gate at Mosta’s Charles Abela Stadium. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Safety procedures at football grounds are adequate, the Malta Football Association has insisted in the wake of an accident in which an ambulance called for a seriously injured player was locked outside a football ground in Mosta.  

New Guinean player Samba Camara, 20, suffered a concussion after contact with another player in the final minutes of a Third Division match between Luqa St Andrew’s and Mtarfa at the Charles Abela Stadium in Mosta on Sunday evening.

The referee stopped the game and an ambulance was called but it could not get into the pitch because the keys to an inner gate could not be found.

MFA general secretary Bjorn Vassallo told the Times of Malta the key was typically kept in the stadium bar but, on the day of the match, the bar manager happened to be absent. His son, who was filling in, did not know where the key was and had to run home round the corner to ask his father before the ambulance could access the pitch.

Mater Dei Hospital CEO Ivan Falzon said the hitch did not delay the medical attention given to the player. “On arrival at the stadium, ambulance personnel immediately assisted the player,” he said. “By the time the patient was ready to be moved, the ambulance had direct access into the stadium.”

Mr Falzon added that the ambulance was dispatched from Mosta health centre at 6.20pm and arrived at Mater Dei at 6.49pm, according to hospital records.

We have adequate procedures in place but you can’t cover every possible eventuality

Luqa St Andrew’s president Evan Camilleri said the club had written to the MFA and requested that, in light of the incident, all stadium keys be held by match referees or kept in easily accessible ‘emergency’ boxes to prevent a repeat of the incident.

When asked about this, Mr Vassallo said the MFA was confident the safety procedures in place were up to standard, adding that the incident was a regrettable one-off that had had no impact on the player’s well-being. “We are responsible for some 3,000 games a year and the number of incidents is minimal,” Mr Vassallo said. “We have adequate procedures in place but you can’t cover every possible eventuality.”

The MFA employs a venue manager for all matches under its jurisdiction. The person is responsible for all logistics at the games for which he is present.

Since amateur clubs are not required to have a doctor on their books, the MFA also provides a qualified nurse for lower-division games.

Outside the top division, however, clubs are required to pay for police and ambulance services themselves and, therefore, make their own decisions on whether to have an ambulance standing by.

“In the case of an incident, if the club does not have a licensed doctor the nurse is immediately called in,” Mr Vassallo said.

He pointed out that while newer stadiums all had emergency access to the pitch, some older facilities were still lacking in this regard. Access at the Charles Abela Stadium, where the incident occurred, was upgraded a few years ago at the MFA’s insistence.

Mr Camara was released from hospital on Monday. He will be sitting out the club’s forthcoming match but is expected to make a swift return.

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