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Footballer who died four times on pitch back playing again after teammates saved life

A grandfather who died four times on a football pitch has praised his teammates for saving his life.

Roland ‘Roley’ Thompson, 72, was playing walking football for his team The Ancient Mariners, based in Grimsby, when he suffered a heart failure, which resulted in his heart stopping four times.

Following the incident last April, Roly spent some time recovering in hospital and is now back playing walking football again a year later, the Grimsby Telegraph reports.

Roley has paid tribute to his family and teammates, who have been with him on every step of his recovery.

He said: “I was playing football on April 13 last year and it felt like any other session.

“I just remember the ball coming over to me and it dropping at my feet when everything went black.

“Two days later, I finally came round to find out I’d had heart failure on the pitch and died four times. I knew it ran in the family, but at my age, I thought I’d got away with it.

“Thankfully, there was a retired paramedic on the pitch who continued to resuscitate me until the ambulance arrived, otherwise, I don’t know if I’d have made it.

“Weirdly, I wasn’t frightened or scared when I came round after the accident. I’d knocked on death’s door and he didn’t answer – I came back. It clearly wasn’t my time.

“I feel for my family the more I look back at what happened. They thought they’d lost me and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them.

“I can’t praise them enough for what they’ve done for me, everyone rallied around during a really difficult time in my life.”

Roley spent three months in Diana Princess of Wales Hospital hospital before having an operation.

Having made a good recovery, he decided he would lace his boots up and return to walking football once again after lockdown restrictions were eased last week.

He said: “I was scared when I came back and started playing football. I’d spent six months recovering at home with no practice. I had to take it so steady for the first few matches and not try and push myself too much

“I appreciate everything so much more these days. My family, my grandchildren, all of it.

“When I was well enough to check my emails, I’d received 480 messages wishing me well and people saying get well soon. I broke down in floods of tears as I read them, that too made me appreciate everything I had more.”

The Ancient Mariners returned to the field on Monday, March 29, the first day that lockdown restrictions allowed organised grass-roots sports to return.

“It means so much to be able to play again,” Roley added.

“To see and be on the same team as the people who saved my life is amazing. Not only did they help me, but they became my friends.”