Written by Tomasz Mortimer
The date was the 25th January 2004. A gloomy, leaden night in Guimaraes. Benfica had just taken a 1-0 lead – the 24 year old Hungarian international, Miklós Fehér, who had only recently come on as a substitute, assisting Fernando Aguiar to seemingly secure a vital, hard-earned three points.
As time ticked away and the game ebbed into injury time, Fehér received a booking for time wasting by the referee. All cameras and eyes were on Miklós who seemed to laugh off the stupidity of his yellow card and walked back to his position to defend for his team.
All of sudden, Fehér leaned forward and keeled over, dramatically collapsing on to the pitch. Thousands in the ground and even more watching on live TV witnessed the event. And in a flash, a future Hungarian star was gone.
Players sprinted to his side, lifting him up to prevent him from swallowing his tongue. Paramedics rushed on to the field immediately to perform CPR. Some players were rushing around, trying to do something, anything to save the young man’s life. Others just stood there in shock, tears visible on their face.
An ambulance was quickly forced on to the pitch to urgently get Miklós to the hospital. Argel, the Benfica centre back, opened the ambulance door and shouted “Don’t let him die.”
Sadly, Fehér’s death was confirmed approximately 3 hours later, the cause of death being cardiac arrhythmia brought on by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a disease of a muscle within the heart). It is well known as a leading cause for cardiac arrests in young athletes like Marc Vivien Foe, and it usually asymptomatic.
Benfica’s next few games were understandably postponed, and the club retired the number 29 shirt, which Fehér wore, as a sign of respect. The following season, after Benfica secured the title, Miklós’ parents were presented with a League Championship medal.
Fehér started his career at Győri ETO before moving to Porto in 1998. He had a couple of loan spells before moving from Jose Mourinho’s side to Benfica. Fehér is recognised as one of the few players to be adored by both sets of fans after moving between the two rival clubs – a measure of the man. He also played 25 games for Hungary scoring 7 goals.
The story of Miklós Fehér will never be forgotten, and his life will always be remembered. RIP Miki