They say that when life gives you lemons, you should accept them and open up a lemonade stand. Romanian footballer Mihai Nesu seems to have embraced this life philosophy completely.
There was a time when Mihai Nesu was your average Romanian footballer, plying his trade with Eredivisie side FC Utrecht. His career was progressing well, and at 28, he was entering the peak of his professional life. The 2010-11 season was coming to an end, with just one match against AZ Alkmaar left to be played. Once the match was done with, the season would end and give the players time to be with their families; perhaps even go away on holiday.
There was only one thing left to do before the match, and that was training. Since he had made 36 appearances in all competitions that season, his place in the team for the last match of the season was well and truly confirmed.
For Nesu, it was supposed to be just another morning training session, but it ended up being one that he would remember all his life.
Going through the paces in training, Nesu and team-mate Alje Schut collided harmlessly, the kind of thing you see 4-5 times in every match. Two players fighting for the ball, with the winner wheeling away in triumph and the loser left contemplating a lost ball.
Losing the ball was perhaps the last thing on Nesu’s mind.
“I didn’t want to think about the accident, but it’s good to say just how it was, so that no one comes up with alternative versions about it,” Nesu says.
“They said Alje Schut fell over me, but that’s not true. We just bumped into each other. As simple as that. He was in possession, I tackled, he came with the ball and we both took a knock. It was a common tackle. Just bad luck. When I watch football, I see moments like these once every two or three games.”
As Nesu fell to the ground awkwardly following the collision, it dawned upon him that he was not able to move his arms and legs. Unable to comprehend what was happening to him and short of breath, a static Nesu screamed for help.
“Mihai took a knock and fell to the ground, he was not moving, but screaming towards us,” recalls defender Jan Wuytens.
“He said he couldn’t breathe and move. We expected him to get up, like he always did. But it didn’t happen this time. It was a horrible moment. We felt helpless, we really loved this guy.”
Wuyten’s comments mirror those of his teammates, who all watched in helplessness and horror as their teammate shouted in agony, all the while motionless. It was a simple coming together of two players, but from Nesu’s reactions it was clear that it was anything but a harmless collision.
An ambulance was quickly arranged and soon Nesu had an oxygen mask strapped to his mouth, to help him breathe. The ambulance reached a nearby hospital, where it was confirmed that Nesu had suffered a fractured C3 vertebra and his cervical spine would need to be operated upon immediately.
“I was lucky the ambulance came quickly and the hospital wasn’t far away,” Nesu told Gazeta Sporturilor.
“Doctors told me in cases like mine you can die if you don’t get an oxygen mask quickly. In fact, there’s only usually one survivor in 100 people injured like I was. There weren’t any blackouts for me, but I knew something bad had happened. I didn’t feel pain, I just couldn’t move.”