UEFA under fire amid ‘anger and disbelief’ over Schar

Matt Stead

Brain injury charity Headway has demanded a UEFA investigation after Newcastle defender Fabian Schar played on for Switzerland against Georgia on Saturday despite being knocked unconscious in the first half.

Schar was involved in a clash of heads with Georgia’s Jemal Tabidze midway through the first half of the Euro 2020 qualifier in Tbilisi, which the visitors won 2-0.

Schar was quoted by Swiss newspaper Blick as saying he was “knocked out for a few seconds”. It was reported that as he lay on the ground, Georgia’s Jano Ananidze tried to stop the 27-year-old’s tongue from blocking his airway.

Schar had around five minutes of treatment from medical staff before completing the remainder of the game.

The Swiss FA confirmed on Monday he will not play in Tuesday’s Group D game with Denmark in Basle.

In a statement on Monday, however, Headway expressed its “anger and disbelief” over the incident.

The statement added: “The charity has demanded UEFA launches an investigation into the circumstances that resulted in Swiss player Fabian Schar being cleared to continue playing in a match against Georgia – just minutes after being knocked unconscious and needing emergency help from a member of the opposition.”

Headway chief executive Peter McCabe said: “What is it going to take to make football take concussion seriously?

“How many more players will have their careers and, more importantly, their lives and long-term health put at risk by the sport’s inability to follow its own protocols?

“Put simply, the decision to allow Fabian Schar to return to the field of play after suffering a clear concussion was not only incredibly dangerous but also a clear dereliction of duty.

“The player’s comments after the match are also deeply disturbing and again show the lack of awareness and understanding among players.

“UEFA must immediately launch an investigation into the incident and explain why their protocols were not followed.”

Press Association Sport has contacted UEFA for comment. It is understood the medical departments of Newcastle and the Switzerland team are in contact.

Blick quoted Schar as saying on Saturday after the match: “I cannot remember anything. I was knocked out for a few seconds. My skull is still buzzing. I also have neck pain. And a bump on the forehead. But it was worth it.”

On Sunday, the Swiss Football Association said via a statement on its official website: “International Fabian Schar is in good shape on the day after the game of the A national team in Georgia and the clash in a header duel with Jemal Tabidze.”

Swiss team doctor Dr Damian Meli said: “The player showed no worrying symptoms in the morning after the four-hour flight from Tbilisi to Basel late Saturday night.”

The statement added: “When the medical team of the Swiss A national team arrived immediately after the clash, Meli said he (Schar) was “awake and oriented.”

“He was examined according to the ‘Sport Concussion Assessment Tool’; no neuropsychological deficits could be detected. Therefore, after about five minutes of treatment, the medical team decided to let Schar continue playing. The centre-back could then continue the game without significant problems and play through to the end.

“Since later, more detailed tests after the game concluded no abnormal results, Fabian Schar was able to return to travel with the team back to Switzerland.”

Tabidze continued playing with a bandage around his head before coming off just after the hour mark.

Headway described what happened on Saturday as “the latest in a series of high-profile failures to safeguard footballers from concussion”, going on to make reference to incidents earlier this month involving Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Arsenal counterpart David Ospina, who is on loan at Napoli.

Schar is suspended for Newcastle’s next game at Arsenal on April 1.