Fact Check: List Is NOT A Verified Accurate Account Of 108 Deaths Of FIFA Players And Coaches In Six Months Of 2021

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: List Is NOT A Verified Accurate Account Of 108 Deaths Of FIFA Players And Coaches In Six Months Of 2021 Misrepresented

Did 108 FIFA-registered players and coaches die in six months of 2021, as stated in a viral tweet? No, this claim is unsubstantiated. The number cited in the post, 108, seems to have originated from a source making a different claim that was not specific to FIFA, nor even the sport of soccer, nor a six month time frame. A spokesperson from FIFA issued a statement that no cases had been flagged. The screenshot includes an image of Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck, from an express.co.uk article. Fleck did collapse on the field during a match against Reading on November 23, 2021. He was taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital, but was discharged the next day. Fleck is not dead, as the caption and article headline pairing in the screenshot seems to imply.

The viral November 24, 2021, tweet (archived here) by James Bembridge has been deleted. Screenshots of the tweet continue to circulate; for example, this post published by the Facebook page of, "Cynthia McKinney, PhD" on November 25, 2021, with the caption, "MORE Corporate Greed + Corporate Welfare (And folks tout this as a desirable economic system!) These jab companies are making a killing . . ." The text pictured in the screenshot that originally linked to an express.co.uk article read:

Tweet
James Bembridge
@TheBembridge
108 FIFA registered players/coaches have died in the past 6 months.
express.co.uk
John Fleck rushed to hospital after Sheffield United star collapses in worrying scenes
11:18 AM Nov 24, 2021 Twitter for iPhone
422 Retweets 65 Quote Tweets 583 Likes

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

FIFA01.JPG

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Nov 29 18:24:44 2021 UTC)

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the governing body of 211 soccer organizations around the world. Lead Stories reached out by email to the communications division of FIFA to ask if they were aware of a large number of sudden deaths and if so, if there was any evidence that this was linked to COVID-19 vaccines. A FIFA spokesperson responded on November 29, 2021, with this statement:

FIFA is not aware of a rise in episodes of cardiac arrests as indicated in your email and no cases have been flagged in relation to individuals receiving a COVID vaccine. Generally speaking, FIFA is in regular contact with leading research centres and experts to do research on a variety of medical topics.

The express.co.uk article featured in the screenshot was published on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, and titled, "John Fleck rushed to hospital after Sheffield United star collapses in worrying scenes." The article explained that after collapsing during a Tuesday night game, Fleck was given oxygen by medics and was conscious when he left the stadium on a stretcher on the way to the hospital. Later that day express.co.uk published a follow-up article titled, "John Fleck discharged from hospital after collapsing as Sheffield United make statement." He stayed overnight at the hospital and was discharged. Nothing in either article makes any mention of 108 FIFA registered players and coaches dying.

Sheffield United posted this tweet:

The tweet was linked to this statement:

Sheffield United is grateful to report that John Fleck has been discharged from hospital and will return to Sheffield today (Wednesday).

He was conscious when he was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital and was communicative with club and medical personnel, as well as his family.

After comprehensive medical examinations and staying in hospital overnight for observation, he has been allowed home, where United medical staff will continue to monitor him closely.

United and John Fleck would like to thank all who assisted at a stressful time last night and also everyone for their supportive messages.

Where did this figure that 108 FIFA registered players and coaches had died in the past six months come from? It appears to have originated from an article published in November 2021 in the Hebrew language publication rtnews.co.il, Real Time News. This article presents a concern that young and healthy athletes may be suffering sudden, sometimes fatal, health problems, and implies this could be because of a reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine. The Real Time News article is not the subject of this fact check beyond discovering it was the source of this quote:

At least 108 sudden deaths have been reported among athletes since December, the start of the Corona vaccine campaign, the vast majority of them young people up to the age of 40. The list also includes youth players.

The article finishes with a link to a .pdf file. The 13-page document is written in Hebrew and lists the athletes in two groups, 75 who fell ill and 108 who died. The lists begin in December of 2020 before vaccines were made available to the general public, and they finish in November of 2021. Most entries contain the date of the incident, the name and age of the athlete, their sport and nationality, and a brief description of what happened. Lead Stories has not verified each entry for accuracy.

A spot check found independent reports on the cases that show the following:

  • Some of those listed are young teens and several of the entries include people over 50 years old;
  • Only 18 of the entries mention the word vaccine. There is no way of knowing if the people in these lists, if not noted, had received a COVID-19 vaccine or if their illness or death was caused by that;
  • This list is not limited to professional soccer players but includes athletes from all around the world who participated in basketball, baseball, kayaking, marathon running, cross country trail running, triathlon, American football, weightlifting, ice hockey, field hockey, volleyball, rugby, cycling, mountain biking, handball, cricket, boxing, badminton, tennis, table tennis, track, ballet, diving, and equestrian sports

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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