Adelaide sensation survives life-threatening situation: ‘He was not in a good place at all’

A quick-thinking referee saved the life of Nestory Irankunda after Adelaide United’s teenage star could not breathe following a heavy fall in terrifying scenes in an NPL match.

A-Leagues sensation Irankunda crashed head first into the turf in a life-threatening situation during stoppage time of Friday night’s NPLM SA finals clash between Adelaide and Campbelltown City.


There was widespread panic as players rushed to the 17-year-old wonderkid, with referee Christian Verdicchio – a doctor and cardiac rehabilitation expert – swiftly administering aid to clear his airways and ensure the player did not swallow his tongue.

Having been motionless for three minutes, though conscious, Irankunda was able to walk off the field and he was monitored before reporting to training on Saturday.

“He was gasping for air and at that point, even when he was holding his throat, it was very clear he was not in a good situation,” Verdicchio told Channel 7.

“Pretty much grabbed him and rolled him over. Went to go grab his mouth and tried to get the tongue out. When that was done, just kept him there side-on.

“I’ve seen players hit the floor before and not breath but that one was something different. He was not in a good place at all.”

Irankunda has been linked with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in Germany after taking the Isuzu UTE A-League by storm last season.

He scored a career-high five goals off the bench in 2022-23.