FOOTBALL & FOODBORNE ILLNESS – An Unpleasant Combination

World Cup action continues tomorrow after yesterday and today’s 2-Day Break. France takes on Germany while Brazil takes on Colombia. I expect both matches to be very competitive, fully charged and action packed. Except a scenario like the one I am about to describe below crops up.

Let’s just picture this. As the Brazilian team wakes up tomorrow morning for their pre-match training, 10 players do not report for the training session. Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil’s coach receives news that there has been an outbreak of food poisoning in the Brazilian team and 8 of his frontline players are amongst the 10 players affected including Hulk, David Luiz, Oscar, and more devastating for him, Neymar. Projectile vomiting, stomach ache, frequent stooling, and nausea has ravaged all affected persons.

Brazil’s F.A. quickly contacts FIFA to have the game postponed or cancelled. FIFA replies that Brazil has to go ahead with the match otherwise will be penalized for a “no-show” and a win will be credited to Colombia. Under this circumstances Scolari is forced to field his weaker second eleven team and in the end Brazil loses to Colombia 2-1 and are eliminated from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

To some this scenario sounds like a fantasy fiction story. Right? Well wrong! It can happen and it has happened before.

Rewind back to 2006, the night of 6th of May 2006 to be precise. The English Premier League season was winding up. Tottenham Hotspurs were on the verge of qualifying for the European Champions’ League. All they needed was a win against West Ham United. However in less than 24 hours all their dreams were up in smokes as an outbreak of food poisoning crippled the ability of 10 players from the team to play. The food poisoning was traced to a pre-match buffet served to the team on the evening of May 6, a day before the match, at the London hotel that they lodged. A tray of lasagne served at the buffet was fingered as the main culprit. Forced to field a team void of their key players because the English FA refused to cancel or postpone the match, Spurs lost the match to West Ham and the rest belongs to history. Environmental Health Officials, Medics and even the London Metropolitan Police (in case their was a foul play) were called in to investigate the incident. In the end no foul play was detected, it appeared Norovirus from the lasagne was the causative bug that brought the ten players literally to their knees.

This incident clearly highlights again the importance of protection from food-borne illness which has the capacity to strike at the most unlikely places and alter the course of football history.