Racists bite tongue after striker's heroics

Togolese striker Francis Kone reacts first to help rival player Martin Berkovec. The goalkeeper swallowed his tongue after clashing with a team-mate. Kone pulled out his tongue just as medics arrived.
Togolese striker Francis Kone reacts first to help rival player Martin Berkovec. The goalkeeper swallowed his tongue after clashing with a team-mate. Kone pulled out his tongue just as medics arrived.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PRAGUE • The target of racial abuse during the match, Togolese striker Francis Kone became a hero after he saved the rival goalkeeper's life.

Half an hour into Saturday's Czech top-flight game pitting Bohemians 1905 Prague against Kone's FC Slovacko, Bohemians goalkeeper Martin Berkovec sprinted towards the edge of the box to head out a long pass.

He crashed into his team-mate Daniel Krch, who was also running after the ball at full speed.

The home crowd in Prague watched in horror as the impact left the 28-year-old Berkovec unconscious on the pitch with a swallowed tongue.

Swept to the ground by the tumbling goalkeeper, Slovacko striker Kone was first to provide emergency first aid as soon as he stood up.

"I was close because I was involved in the play," Kone said on Monday.

He managed to pull out Berkovec's tongue in the time it took Bohemians' medical staff to arrive at the scene after waiting for the referee to wave them onto the pitch and run some 60 metres.

"Seconds matter in a situation like this. If you swallow your tongue you start to choke, the flow of air into the brain stops, so you have to act as fast as possible," said Bohemians spokesman Tomas Mutinsky. "If Martin is in a stable condition today, it is largely thanks to Francis."

Berkovec wrote on Facebook: "I would like to thank Francis Kone for his prompt help that saved my life. Once again, THANK YOU."

The goalkeeper is set to meet his saviour soon.

"He has invited me for dinner," said Kone.

One Bohemians fan tweeted his thanks to Kone after the goal-less draw: "He taught me something today, and not only me."

Another fan told the Bohemians' club website how the striker's quick thinking had impacted on the club's hardcore fans.

"Two guys were sitting next to me. Racists. Their language was... (racist), monkey stuff," he said. "And then comes the shock. Kone pulls the goalkeeper's tongue out. A rival. A black guy.

"The entire stadium is silent, including the two guys. I don't give a damn about the score. Martin will be okay, Francis Kone helped him. A rival? A black? A man!"

Born in Bondoukou in the northeast of Ivory Coast, Kone has taken advantage of his mother's nationality to play for Togo since 2013.

At 26, he has had a varied career, having played for several clubs in Thailand, Oman, Portugal and Hungary before joining Slovacko in 2015.

"This is the fourth time it has happened to me - (I've experienced this) once in Thailand and twice in Africa," said Kone. "No, I don't have medical education. In this type of situation, I always make sure whether the player has swallowed his tongue."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Racists bite tongue after striker's heroics'. Print Edition | Subscribe