Berlin: Striker Daniel Engelbrecht has made history by becoming the first player in German professional football to play with a defibrillator after he nearly died from an inflammation of the heart. The 24-year-old collapsed 16 months ago while playing for third division Stuttgart Kickers and was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, which looked to have ended his career.
He needed four operations and the fitting of a defibrillator, to regulate his heart beat, last December. But an emotional Engelbrecht made his return off the bench on Saturday in the 76th-minute of a 1-0 regional cup defeat against FV Ravensburg and wore a chest protector under his football shirt. “I have often struggled against death, so no-one expected that I could play again. This is the best day of my life,” he told Sky Sports. “I am lucky to still be alive, others in my situation have died.” Engelbrecht made only a brief appearance due to his lack of match practice as he only joined team training on November 1 after several months of building up his fitness.
Kickers’ coach Horst Steffen said he was disappointed to lose, but Engelbrecht’s comeback “shows there are more important things in life than football”. Englebrecht says he is slowly getting “back to normal” after the “worst year of his life”, but says he has been treated by a psychologist to help him cope with his fears and panic attacks.
“I was often afraid that I was going to die,” he told Munich-based newspaper the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “The best therapy is to get back to training every day and see that things are ok. “I still need to learn to trust my body again.”