Tribute: Ruben De La Red Retires At Just 25

“I am starting a very exciting stage in my career. I wish to send my support to all those players out there whose careers were also cut short. I am also very grateful to all the people who have supported me since I fainted. I’ve fought against this in vain and doctors advised me to stop.” - Ruben de la Red

It’s not often that football brings you to tears. While everyone has seen the fans crying on television when their team are relegated or lose in a cup final, rarely does one see moments of tears amongst raw emotion. However, as Ruben de la Red announced his retirement, this was one of those rare moments.

At the youthful age of 25, De La Red sat before the assembled press and spoke about his love for Real Madrid, about his desire to stay on at the club and his wish to turn his hand on coaching, while desperately trying not to break down. In the end he failed. The former Getafe midfielder sobbed as he revealed how he has talked with Jose Mourinho about joining his support staff and how his fight to play again has all been in vain.

It was just over two years ago that the midfielder collapsed on the pitch while playing in the Copa del Rey for Madrid and ever since then, doctors have been trying desperately to get him back onto the pitch. Despite the efforts of some of the best medical staff in football and his own deep desire to step out onto the pitch again though, De La Red’s place will now be on the other side of the white line – a challenge he says he is looking forward to.

Even though the former midfielder will never play again at a professional level, he will at least count himself fortunate that he is able to continue in football, and indeed in life. Antonio Puerta and Daniel Jarque were two players who weren’t so fortunate – both of them collapsed on the pitch and died afterwards due to a heart failure. Recently, Salamanca’s Miguel Garcia nearly suffered the same fate as he suffered a cardiac arrest during a game, but fortunately he was resuscitated and is recovering.

Now, the hope is that lessons will be learnt from the fate of the players mentioned above and also De La Red’s. Earlier this year it was reported that Real Madrid cited his heart problem as a ‘common condition’, but if it was, why was he playing and putting himself at such risk? And, why does this seem to be happening more in Spain and La Liga than in any of the other countries or leagues in Europe?

Those questions are certainly issues for the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (Royal Spanish Football Federation) to look at and study. As for now the footballing world will look back and see another promising career cruelly cut short. De La Red’s final stint at Madrid might have been short, but he will always be remembered for his one outstanding season with Getafe and, perhaps more importantly, for his determination to keep on fighting to play again, even when all looked lost.

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