A REFEREE who collapsed during a Sunday League match has praised the quick-thinking players who he believes saved his life.
Paul Cooper was in charge of the Kenward Cup first round tie between West Pier and Star when he suffered a heart attack.
“If it wasn’t for the reaction of the players, I wouldn’t be here now,” said Cooper, 50. “I just want to say thank you to them.”
The match at Flixton 10 days ago was goalless when the official collapsed as a corner was taken.
He was taken to Castle Hill Hospital near Hull and underwent an operation last Thursday, before being released the next day.
He will have to have heart bypass surgery, which means an end to his 20-year refereeing career.
“In a nutshell, my footballing career is over. There might be some players who say ‘thank goodness, my fines will be coming down now’,” he joked.
“I hadn’t been feeling well on the Saturday night and still wasn’t right on the Sunday morning.
“I told the two managers and I was running about as normal, maybe a little more out of breath.
“There was a corner and I remember looking across, the colours all seemed to mix together and spin around and the next thing I was on the floor and the players were around me.”
An ambulance was called and Cooper was treated by paramedics on the pitch for 30 minutes as the match was abandoned.
He was taken to hospital at Scarborough before being transferred to Castle Hill later in the week.
Now recovering at home in Bridlington, Cooper added: “West Pier and Star are a great set of lads. The Scarborough League can have a bit of a reputation but I’ve never had any problems with any of the teams.
“I’ve had so many good wishes and John Wilson from the Referees Association has been trying to let people know what has happened.
“I don’t smoke, don’t drink and have never been in hospital before, so it was a bit of a shock.”
John Wilson, secretary of the Driffield and Bridlington Referees’ Association, said: “I’m sorry to hear of Paul’s illness, I have known him ever since he took up refereeing at grassroots level in 1993.
“He has officiated up to Humber Premier League level and is in his first year of office as president of the association.
“I, along with all his colleagues, wish him a speedy recovery and feel certain that he will look forward to lending his wealth of refereeing experience to some role within the association.”
Although Cooper will not be able to take charge of games any more, his son Simon is following in his footsteps.