cAdiz fans have seen Jeremías Conan Ledesma off his goal and running across the grass before, but not like this. It was a Saturday afternoon and he was hit twice, first Frenkie de Jong then Robert Lewandowski, but that was a different story and they were now on the same side. The goalkeeper went silent and ran towards the bench – Barcelona’s bench – where Carlos Nogueira, the physiotherapist, threw a small red box at him. He grabbed it, turned and went back again, as fast as he could, to hold it tightly. When he reached the end, pulling up alongside his target, he threw it into the stand. Inside was a defibrillator, urgently delivered by hand.
Ledesma briefly raised a thumb, an inquiry, a hope, looking up at the stands, but it was not returned. His eyes fell. And so he stood silently, helpless and just waited not knowing what else to do now, like almost all of the other 20,000 people there. It was a long wait. By the time they managed to restart the game and play out the final minutes, it was dark and Antonio, a 68-year-old Cádiz season ticket holder, had been taken to the Puerta del Mar hospital less than a kilometer down the road. He suffered a cardiac arrest and was dead for 10 minutes, but they managed to revive him. He is stable, in ICU.
On a weekend of 30 goals, including Lewandowski but also Nico Williams’ first ever thunderbolt, two from José Angel Carmona – youth team defender – who could have rescued Julen Lopetegui from the sack at Sevilla, and a strike Fede Valverde’s comic strip against Mallorca; on the weekend Villarreal conceded for the first time this season and Real Betis scored to go top another league to everyone else, the image of Ledesma’s run may have been the most enduring. Another portrait, one of many, of what appeared in Cádiz, which could be anywhere.
In the end, he was lucky in football, said one of the doctors there.
There was about 10 minutes to go when the whistles started going around. That might have been a pretty standard response from fans frustrated by another defeat – Cádiz have no points or a goal – but as Barcelona kept the ball, chants of “Red Cross! Red Cross!” Armas was waving frantically. Silvia, the daughter of the fan who suffered the cardiac arrest, said afterwards that she did not notice at first. She was talking to her father and then she went back to the game. It wasn’t until a fan behind her told her his head had fallen that she called for help and the rest of the supporters called her.
The Red Cross didn’t immediately respond, and it wasn’t clear what was happening but referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande did – and quickly. Decisive where others were in doubt, he stopped the game, ran towards the benches to tell the delegates and officials. In the stand was a Cádiz fan named Cristian Cornejo. A nurse with one leg encased in an orthopedic shoe, Cornejo was the first person on the scene that Antonio had no pulse. A medical team from Barcelona and Cádiz went around the field towards them.
At the side of the field, the cameras caught Ledesma shouting at Sebastián Jiménez, the Cádiz club doctor. They saw the look on his face and heard him say: “He revives and then he falls again.” Then came the sprint: the defibrillator he ran to was the second one delivered. Applause applauded the good news, anxiety eased at times, but it didn’t last. Elapsed time. Barcelona fans and a Cardiologist from Badajoz named Carlos Aranda were sitting next to the former Cádiz player: they called the match delegate and Aranda went to the stands. About 15 minutes had passed. Something was seriously wrong.
There was hush, all these silent images. Pacha Espino stood, hands over his face, fingers crossed. Ronald Araujo on his side praying. He was not alone: Momo Mbaye also prayed. Participants spoke, or mostly just stood in silence. They were taken down the tunnel, where they discussed what should be done now. Many of them stayed outside, sitting on the bench or chairs staring into space. Midfielder José Mari ran, carrying a stretcher into the stands, where space opened up to allow the medical staff to work.
It was chaos, Cornejo said. The Ambu they had was designed for a child. His wife then went with an adult’s car – her car, left outside in a hurry, towed, €140 fine. They couldn’t get a line in. They worked shifts on the CPR. Antonio was dead for 10, 15 minutes. The protocols say you stop CPR after 25 minutes, but they didn’t. They kept going: after 40, it was done with a pulse. In the midst of it all, a TV cameraman fell. They also went to his aid. When Cornejo left, walking around the field in that shoe, there was applause, a real hero.
A statement from Cádiz said Antonio was stable. His daughter explained the next day that the doctors were happy but they had to be patient. She said thank you – “for everyone”.
It was long, quiet, strange and scary. When the referee brought the teams out again and again, it was 55 minutes after the game was first stopped. Barcelona scored twice more – Ansu Fati apologized for his – but Cádiz was barely there any more and nobody cared.
But, of course they did. Almost. An episode like this do humanity, yes. They live, they have special importance. Last season Ledesma made more saves than any goalkeeper primera except Maximiano, but none of his actions were as important as this. And yet it’s all played out through football too, where the players are people too, and where everything is magnified. The IS to put things into perspective a line is always expressed as all this football stuff is not important, but sometimes what actually happens does the opposite, instead emphasizing its importance. People die, they play games.
It doesn’t really matter, no: it all felt irrelevant when it started again on Saturday night and many people were gone. But it’s important because it’s a matter for people, and they had come back out – not long ago, they wouldn’t have stopped at all. The fact that they could do that was a sign of success, a loophole, a way to go on and say it’s okay, it’s okay. Football is people’s lives, or part of it. For many, it expresses it, it celebrates it. They will be back next time. Now they hope Antonio can be there with them.
The cartoon that Rodri drew on his shin pads was getting bright and so was the real Rodri. It was this the game and Betis struggled at first, but slid into the far post to give them victory, 53,276 erupting. Villarreal could and probably should have scored three or four in the first half, but Rodri’s goal gave them the third. “We deserved more,” said Unai Emery, which may have been true, and to make it worse Gerard Moreno had to be injured.
“I saw red shirts and I started running,” said Fede Valverde, the man with four lungs. Started and didn’t stop. He went 67 metres, at times hitting 30kph, picking up the ball deep inside his own half and passing three players into the light beyond, before seeing a white shirt cross his field of vision, opening up space little. That’s it, he said, when he decided to shoot the ball – to the left – flying into the top corner from the edge of the box. It was absurd, cartoonish, and it changed the game. Having conceded a goal to Mallorca, Madrid were now level with the proud holders who have scored the best goal this season – even if Rodrygo and Vinicius did their best to challenge that en route to a 4-1 win achieve.
If those three were brilliant there were more. Enes Unal’s absurd free kick lifted Getafe to their first win of the season. Williams Junior came in from the right and curled an effort into the top corner for Athletic against Elche, where the furious fans chanted that their players were still on holiday. Erik Lamela’s touch for Sevilla’s opener at Espanyol was very neat. And Atlético’s opener against Celta, completed by Correa, was a great goal for the team. Carrasco’s third in the 4-1 win was pretty tasty too.