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Ghana's Dwamena dies after on-field collapse

November 11, 2023

Former Ghana international football player Raphael Dwamena has died at the age of 28 after collapsing on the field in Albania. Doctors had called for him to retire in 2021, when he collapsed during a game in Austria.

Raphael Dwamena sitting on the bench while at Levante
Dwamena played nine times for Ghana, scoring twice on debut, but his heart condition held him backImage: David Aliaga/MB Media/IMAGO

In the 23rd minute of an Albanian Superliga game between FK Egnatia and Partizani, tragedy struck. Raphael Dwamena collapsed on the field and died on Saturday.

The former Red Bull Salzburg academy player, who won nine caps for Ghana between 2017 and 2018, was stretchered off the field and despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was later pronounced dead.

The talented striker’s stop-start career was blighted by his heart issues, and, despite calls for him to retire earlier, Dwamena was unable to step away from the game he loved.

Dwamena's amateur career began at Red Bull Ghana before his switch to Austria to play in Salzburg. But it was at Austria Lustenau and then FC Zürich where Dwamena announced himself as a top forward, scoring 21 goals in 51 games in the single season he played for the latter in 2017-18.

Zürich were among his former clubs to pay tribute to the stricken forward on social media.

A history of heart problems

Dwamena's career was held back by a heart condition that was first diagnosed in 2017. In that year, a move to Premier League club Brighton that would have been worth €11.4 million fell through when he failed a medical exam based on his heart issues.

In 2020, while at Spanish club Levante, he was fitted with an implantable cardiovascular-defibrillator (ICD), the type that was fitted to Christian Eriksen after his cardiac arrest on the field in 2021, and has been fitted to other players with heart conditions.

The ICD allowed Levante's club doctors to monitor his heart during games. in October 2020, following a move to Danish club Vejle Boldklub, he was stopped from taking to the pitch after his ICD showed values that were considered too high.

A year later in October 2021, Dwamena was back in Austria playing for Blau-Weiss Linz, when he collapsed on the field during a game. His ICD shocked him back to life but the game was abandoned and his career in Austria was over. 

Dwamena ignored calls to retire

There were repeated calls for Dwamena to retire from football, including from respected Ghanian doctor Prince Pambo, who in November 2021, shortly after Dwamena collapsed in Austria, called on the forward to consider calling time on his playing career.

"If Dwamena was my patient, I'd sit him down and call a year or two off,” Pambo said in November 2021. "To deeply go into whatever problem it is, probably I would be tilted towards wanting to prepare him very well for a beautiful retirement from sports.”

Speaking only in a personal capacity, Pambo went on: "I think, whenever these things happen, a bold decision has to be taken. And I would be tilted towards wanting to prepare my patient to have a clean and very good exit point and see how he can use the experience he got from playing football to help the industry, probably from a technical or administrative point of view.”

Dwamena didn't heed the calls and, in 2023, looked to Albanian Superliga club FK Egnatia to restart his blighted career. Things had been looking up for the talented striker, who had scored 20 times in 28 games, firing his club to the top of the table.

But on Saturday, November 11, midway through the first half of a game between Albania's top two clubs, Dwamena collapsed and died, with his ICD unable to save him this time.