The sad death of promising Colombian striker Herman Cordoba on Saturday, brought back memories of many players in recent years whose lives and football careers prematurely ended. Cordoba a 20 year old forward had contributed to firing Huila to the top of the Colombian first division with 7 goals. It was even rumoured that Werder Bremen were showing an interest in the player and that he would soon be turning out for his countries national side. Cordoba died in horrific circumstances when his car crashed into a bus and caught fire. Midfielder Mario Beltran also died in the incident.
The feeling in Colombia will be sympathised particularly in Spain and Croatia who have had to let go of young talents due to tragic circumstances. Seville's talented left footed midfielder Antonio Peurta died in 2007 after collapsing in a match against Getafe in the Premira Liga. Espanjol were next to suffer such pain as their captain Dani Jarque was found dead in his hotel room in Italy during a preseason tour. Both players suffered heart attacks. Following the tragedies Spain's highly talented Real Madrid midfielder Ruben De La Red looks unlikely to return to the pitch after being diagnosed with a heart condition. The 24 year old scored a stunning strike against Greece in Spain's successful Euro 2008 campaign and compares in playing style to Croatia's Niko Kranjcar. However after the midfielder blacked out hitting the deck in the early round's of the Coppa Del Rey the player admits it could be over for him.
In Croatia, Slaven Bilic arguably may have another striker and another right midfielder on his roster if not for two fateful days in 2002 and 2003. Daniel Popovic was a striker of NK Osijek, who was causing a huge sensation in HNL1 scoring 4 goals in the first 10 games of the season. He also impressed partnering Ivica Olic in Croatia Under 21's match with Estonia netting once in a 2-0 victory. Everything seemed set for a highly promising career when the player lost control of his car in Borova and hit a street light. Croatia can only think of what might have been. Silvestar Sabolkci, succumbed a year later in Varazdin in the early hours of the morning.
Sabolkci, aged 24 was a player who had already achieved notable success as part of a Varteks side which featured Sasa Bjelanovic, Daniel Hrman and Ivan Rezic. Sabolkci was known as a right sided Daniel Pranjic who was emerging at the same time period. Blessed with excellant pace and excellant crossing ability. He was played 17 times in Croatia's Under 21 side before being given his full debut in 2001 against Greece. Having already played in two European Championships and one World Championship with the Under 21's side, 2003 was supposed to be a pivotal year for the player who played in a friendly match against Macedonia in February. In the May with the domestic season soon to finish he signed up with Dinamo Zagreb and was expected to be a standard first 11 player for the following campaign. However days later the player died in car accident. In addition to signing for Dinamo the player was due to be married, with his fiancee expecting to have their first child.
The death of Hjorve Custic came only a year and a half ago. Custic was the victim of poor conditions in the Croatian National League, where NK Zadar's Stanovi stadium was granted fit for use, despite the existence of a concrete wall within barely a couple of metres of play. Despite an inoccuious challenge for the ball with Cibalia's 17 year old midfielder Tomislav Juric, Custic was sent crashing into the wall leaving him with a fractured skull. The wall has since been removed and it took the death of Custic for inspections to be carried out on all grounds in Croatia. NK Zagreb, Croatia Sesvete and not suprising Zadar was seen to fall short of required standards. Zadar's stadium is a problem of space as nearby flats which overlook the ground limit the club's ability to widen the area, between pitch and terraces. The concrete wall which killed Custic however has now been removed and the club hope to move to a new stadium which they will name after their 23 year old former wide man from the city. Had Custic been playing in Zapresic, Hajduk or Dinamo which contains a huge amount of tracking and grass between pitch and stadium the player would have had nothing more than a casual role on the grass on a Saturday afternoon. Tomislav Juric, who has made two appearences so far this season wears a T shirt bearing Custic's picture under his Cibalia shirt.
Although Custic's career may not have found the level of De la Red, Sabolcki or Peurta, he was still much loved by NK Zadar. Having struggled to break into a NK Zagreb forward line containing Mario Mandzukic and Krunoslav Lovrek, Custic returned home to Zadar for the 2007/08 season and had been an excellant foil for the leagues leader scorer Zelimir Terkes. Custic was also well known to Slaven Bilic and Aljosa Asanovic who capped the player 10 times in their Under 21 side