The Professional Footballers Association of Australia [PFA] has hit out after a terrifying incident that “could have killed” Sydney FC defender Michael Zullo in Saturday’s A-League clash with Melbourne Victory.
Zullo collided head first with a pitchside table – holding the fourth official’s electronic board used to show substitutions and injury time – in sickening fashion after an aerial contest with Victory’s Marco Rojas.
The 28-year-old required treatment, but managed to continue on playing before being substituted late in Sydney’s 2-1 win, a result that saw them maintain their winning start to the A-League season.
Watch the incident below
Ex-football stars John Kosmina and Mark Bosnich were particularly vociferous in their criticism of the incident, while PFA CEO John Didulica told The New Daily the near-miss “should never happen again”.
“The PFA has established a weekly conference with FFA to discuss matters that occur over the course of the weekend’s matches,”Didulica said.
“This incident will be raised,: he added. “Thankfully Michael is ok but the risk of a serious injury was very high.
“It’s impossible to manage human error but it’s something that should never happen again.”
Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata said he will try and seek the removal of pitchside tables after being “horrified” by the near-miss.
“I was horrified to be honest, I thought he could have been seriously hurt,” Pignata told Fairfax.
“I spoke to the fourth official after the game, they hardly used the table.
“Given the proximity of our sight lines, I don’t think we should have a table out there like that.
“I had a meeting with the stadium straight after the game and their operations manager told me the same thing.
“It’s something we will seriously look at because it was a sickening clash.”
‘It could have killed him’
Kosmina, who used to coach Sydney FC, said Zullo was “very, very fortunate” to escape serious injury.
And he queried why the table – which often also carries defibrillators – was necessary.
“This is very, very fortunate from Michael Zullo’s point of view,” he said on Fox Sports.
“That could have split his head open, it could have taken his eye out, it could have killed him.
“The question is, why is a table there just to put an electronic sign that says ‘we’re going to have three minutes of extra time’? The fourth official’s not even standing by it, it’s stupid.
“There’s a real OHS issue here and if something worse had come of that, who’s liable?
“The football stadium, Sydney FC, the referees because they want it there?”
Bosnich said that football needed to learn from cricket’s Phillip Hughes tragedy – and that items close to the pitch needed to be removed in the interests of player safety.
“The terrible misfortune that we had with the Phillip Hughes incident, I think is a wake-up call for everybody,” Bosnich added on Fox Sports.
“Do we as a sport want to have to go through something like that?
“Kossie’s [Kosmina] exactly right, before he takes his eye (out) or hits his temple, this is player safety, this is very, very important.
“There should be no things around the pitch.
“Even those advertisers next to the goals, you’ve got to be very careful of those because they’re like ice rinks sometimes when the players are running at full pace.”