The New South Wales government's plan to roll out 2,500 defibrillators across the state means the mission to have the lifesaving devices at every sports ground is one step closer according to football personality Andy Paschalidis.
The State Government's defibrillator program announced on Tuesday will see $4 million spent over four years to help sporting clubs across NSW purchase and maintain Automatic External Defibrillators (AED).
The timing of the announcement is notable as three years ago today, Paschalidis witnessed his Forest Rangers teammate Matt Richardson, die from a heart attack on the football field at just 43 years of age.
There was no defibrillator at the ground that day. But with the life saving devices increasing the survival of a player having a heart attack by up to 70 per cent, Paschalidis founded the charity Heartbeat of Football (HOF).
Paschalidis was at Tuesday’s announcement along with NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Sports Minister Stuart Ayers and said the rollout was a huge boost for his mission.
“To have this sort of commitment from the Government is massive,” he said.
“We want to make sure all sporting clubs and fields as safe and comfortable as possible for those who play sport but they should also know their limitations and get themselves checked.
“Having these lifesaving devices on sporting grounds saved two amateur footballers during pre-season due to the quick reaction of people who were CPR trained and used the defib that was available at the ground.
“So, it shows you that yes, you can save lives, yes they make a difference but the broad picture is about heart health awareness and making sure that you are all ok.”
While the announcement is a positive for grassroots football, Paschalidis also acknowledged the anniversary of his dearly departed teammate.
“This goes back for me personally to 2014,” he said. “For me as a former teammate it’s difficult. I can’t stop thinking about Matt’s wife and the children.
“Sometimes in all this we do tend to forget how difficult it is for the families to adjust because life will never be the same for them.”
Paschalidis believes that the effort and support that the sporting community showed for his mission contributed to making this week’s announcement happen.
“The area of the community that had pushed for this - the heart and soul dare I say of the game is grassroots football," he said.
“Because this issue is hurting them the most. People live for their weekend fix of football. They love their club and some have had to deal with a life or death situation.
“So for me the greatest joy with HOF is that it’s brought so many good people together.
“Socceroo Tim Cahill sent as a video message while he was on holiday about our HOF gala dinner last month and pushed what we were trying to do.
“Liverpool legend Craig Johnston also showed his support and said to me last Friday that your heart is your soul, your heart is the beat, your heart is everything.
“Beyond this, my dream is to have a heart health awareness round in the A-League and have medical testing, awareness and education at every ground that weekend.”
For more information about the defib rollout click on the NSW Governments website: https://sport.nsw.gov.au/clubs/grants/defibrillator