Kluivert: 'Worst moment of my life' when ex-Ajax team-mate collapsed

‘That was the worst moment of my life’: RB Leipzig winger Justin Kluivert recalls the horrific moment when his former Ajax team-mate Abdelhak Nouri collapsed during a friendly before the Dutchman was forced to retire from football due to brain damage

  • Abdelhak Nouri had a cardiac arrhythmia attack against Werder Bremen in 2017
  • Ajax said days after the game that he had suffered ‘permanent’ brain damage 
  • Justin Kluivert said the incident taught him to ‘value life because it can change’
  • Nouri left hospital in March 2020 and is being cared for at home by his family 
  • Donny van de Beek is one former team-mate who wears No 34 in Nouri’s honour

Justin Kluivert has described the on-pitch collapse of his former Ajax team-mate and close friend Abdelhak Nouri as ‘the worst moment of my life’. 

Nouri, who made nine appearances in total for the senior team, collapsed during a pre-season friendly against Werder Bremen in July 2017 after suffering a cardiac arrhythmia attack.

The 20-year-old was placed in a coma and Ajax revealed five days after the match that the Dutchman had suffered ‘severe and permanent’ brain damage. 

Abdelhak Nouri had a cardiac arrhythmia attack in a friendly against Werder Bremen in 2017

The attacking midfielder cannot play football again after suffering significant brain damage

Kluivert, who is currently on loan at RB Leipzig from Roma, was on the pitch with Nouri on that fateful day and has recounted what he remembers of that day to Goal.

‘That was the worst moment of my life,’ Kluivert says. ‘I was just in shock, I couldn’t believe it.

‘One second you’re standing with him on the pitch and making jokes and the next second everything is different. It happened so incredibly quickly.

‘I wanted to be alone [afterwards]. I am a person who deals with such emotional events by myself. I thought a lot, kept reminding myself of the many wonderful moments we shared with him.

‘I have learned all over again in a new way that you have to value life because it can change from one moment to the next.’

Nouri came out of his coma in August 2018 and regained the ability to communicate with his family by moving his mouth and eyebrows, but it was only in March last year that he returned home with his family, who are caring for him. 

Justin Kluivert adopted Nouri’s shirt number at Roma and paid tribute to him after scoring

Donny van de Beek is another of Nouri’s former team-mates who wears No 34 in his honour

Ajax paid tribute to Nouri by naming their Talent of the Future award after him and dedicated their 34th Eredivisie title to him – Nouri was No 34 – after the team won the title in 2019.

A number of Nouri’s former team-mates, including Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek and Brighton right back Joel Veltman, have also adopted Nouri’s shirt number, while Kluivert was Roma’s No 34 after moving there from Ajax in 2018. 

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