AFCON 2021: Did Senegal opt for result over Sadio Mane's safety? Medical expert condemns 'shocking' choice
The Liverpool forward scored the opening goal in Senegal's 2-0 win over Cape Verde, but had just moments earlier clashed heads with the latter's goalkeeper Vozinha.
Senegal's football team has found itself in the middle of a controversy after they decided to allow star player Sadio Mane to play following a head injury during their Africa Cup of Nations 2021 last-16 game at the Stade Omnisports de Bafoussam, Cameroon.
The Liverpool forward scored the opening goal in Senegal's 2-0 win over Cape Verde but had just moments earlier clashed heads with the latter's goalkeeper Vozinha. Mane received treatment after the collision in the 54th minute with Vozinha, who was taken off on a stretcher after being shown a red card. However, the Senegal forward played on despite initially being knocked out. In the 63rd minute, Mane scored Senegal's opener, but seven minutes later, he lay down on the pitch holding his head and had to be eventually substituted.
Speaking about the injury and Mane's subsequent trip to the hospital, Senegal manager Aliou Cisse told the media, "He felt faint, his head was spinning, and he had to go there."
The decision to let Sadio Mane continue to play despite the collision has sparked a debate over Senegal's choice to put the result over a player's safety. Brain injury association Headway's Deputy Chief Executive Luke Griggs said that Senegal should have at the very least considered the possibility of a concussion following the 'sickening' collision that left both players in enough distress.
"On the face of it, this seems to be yet another example of football putting results ahead of player safety," Griggs lamented.
Griggs insisted that the principle of 'if in doubt, sit it out' should have been implemented without another ball being kicked. "The image of the player collapsing on the ground and having to be helped from the pitch after scoring his goal should tell you everything you need to know about the impact and the effect it had had on his brain," he stated.
"Yet again, the desire to win is seen as being worth serious risks to players' health. It is simply shocking that this continues to happen," Griggs exclaimed.
In 2021, the International Football Association Board had recommended the introduction of concussion substitution after consultation with medical experts and national associations. Teams were allowed to bring on an additional substitute if required to facilitate replacing players with a suspected concussion, but the recommendation was not fully adopted across the game.
The Headway deputy chief executive added that it is now a real test of leadership for the Confederation of African Football and FIFA, particularly if Senegal declare Sadio Mane fit for Sunday's quarter-final. "If football wants to be taken seriously when it comes to concussion, it simply must take action to enforce and strengthen its protocols," Griggs concluded.
Following the collision, both Sadio Mane and Vozinha were pictured together smiling and giving football fans the thumbs up. The Liverpool forward shared the photograph in his Instagram story stating that everything was fine and thanked fans for all the messages poured in. The Senegal star was later discharged and rejoined his teammates at their hotel. Mane is expected to be back for Liverpool's next Premier League game against Leicester on February 10 after the tournament's conclusion.