Abdelhak Nouri, known by his nickname “Appie” to his fans, appeared well on Saturday when he took the field for the Dutch side Ajax in a friendly against Werder Bremen. But something changed with just about 20 minutes to go. Nouri’s movement visibly slowed, he staggered a few steps, then he collapsed. As his teammates gathered around him, the seriousness of the situation became clear. Nouri did not get up.
Five days later, the 20-year-old remains in the hospital, where it’s become apparent that he will never be the same. On Thursday, Ajax said Nouri suffered “serious and permanent brain damage,” which could mean Nouri’s professional soccer career is over.
The extent of Nouri’s brain damage has not been disclosed. It was originally thought that Nouri collapsed due to a heart problem, which led to the match being abandoned so he could be airlifted to the hospital. Follow-up tests Tuesday, however, revealed Nouri’s heart was functioning normally. According to Ajax, Nouri is in a coma.
As the latest news about Nouri’s condition spread, soccer players from around the world reacted, including Barcelona star Luis Suarez, who posted a photograph of himself with a young Nouri along with a message of encouragement.
Several of the world’s leading soccer clubs also reacted to the news, including Premier League powerhouses Arsenal and Manchester United.
Meanwhile, some of Nouri’s teammates and fans posted highlights from his career, which included 15 Eredivisie league appearances and cup games for Ajax last season.
Nouri, who was born in Amsterdam to Moroccan parents, also played for several Dutch national youth teams, including its Under-15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 teams.