In September of 2005, Radwan Hamed — a then 17-year old striker who had already spent six years in Tottenham’s youth system — underwent required medical testing that revealed abnormalities with his heart. At the time, neither he nor his parents were made aware of his condition. His diagnosis was not be revealed to him until the following year, after an on-field collapse left the prospect disabled for life.
Less than two weeks after signing his first professional contract, Hamed would feature for Tottenham’s academy in a game against Cercle Brugge of Belgium. During the game he suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed, enduring further complications as he awaited the arrival of an ambulance. According to The Guardian, “his brain was deprived of oxygen for 16 minutes until an ambulance arrived with a defibrillator. He suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) [and] abnormal thickening of muscle around the heart”. Hamed would be left with brain damage and is no longer able to live on his own.
Yesterday, courts sided with Hamed and his family in their lawsuit against the club. The presiding judge found fault with since-departed members of Spurs’ medical staff and the Football Association’s regional cardiologist, Dr. Peter Mills. The judge ruled, “The club owed a duty of care to the claimant as a result of both the doctor-patient and employer-employee relationship … it was their responsibility, as specialist physicians and employers, to ensure that relevant risks were identified and communicated to the claimant and his parents to enable them to make an informed decision as to whether to bear them. In this they singularly failed.”
The judge ordered the estimated 5-7 million pounds ($7.6-$10.7 million) in medical and recovery bills that Hamed is facing to be paid off in full – 70 percent by the club’s former physicians, 30 percent by Mills. Tottenham itself is will bare no financial responsibility, due to an indemnity agreement with their medical staff.
Spurs responded to the court ruling through a spokesman:
“The club wholeheartedly regrets that a former employee, as adjudged, was remiss in their duties to Radwan. This judgment will hopefully now secure the best possible treatment and care for him. The club has been supportive of Radwan and his family over the past 10 years and we wish them well for the future.”
Speaking to the media after the court’s decision was handed down, Radwan’s father Raymon Hamed said:
“We are relieved more than happy that it is over. If you can imagine, a young man having everything taken away overnight and you didn’t know about it [the cause]. We had to pick up all the pieces. It is the hardest bit. We couldn’t help him because we didn’t know.”
His mother, Christabel Hamed offered a grim view of the family’s future had her son’s medical expenses not been covered:
“We’re happy, we thank God that we are able to secure something for his future. We’re very happy with the outcome. Financially if we had lost the case we would have been homeless, because we didn’t have any financial backing.”
Reminders that the professional game can be cold and callous are never-ending, but Tottenham’s failure, or its medical staff’s failure — with the legal free pass of indemnity, it can be difficult to assign complete responsibility — to properly acknowledge and respond to Radwan Hamed’s health is unfathomable. It’s one thing to accept that players, particularly young ones, are often seen by clubs as little more than investment opportunities, cheap commodities to be acquired and discarded as they see fit, but Tottenham’s handling of this child who had grown up in their system is deplorable.
Even through the most jaded and cynical lens, this can best be viewed as a terrible lapse in organizational management. In reality, this was flat-out disregard for Hamed’s humanity. A young man could have died on the field and is now permanantly disabled because the doctors his family trusted failed to do the most basic part of their jobs.