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The mysterious death of Albert Ebossé

Was footballer Albert Ebossé killed by a projectile thrown from the crowd or murdered in the dressing rooms? Both theories have been put forward.
April 30, 2015, 9:30am
Photo by PA Images

When 24-year-old Albert Ebossé lost his life following an Algerian Ligue 1 match last year, the initial reports claimed that he had been struck by an object thrown from the stands. But, with a pathologist now claiming Ebossé was beaten to death, the story has taken a disturbingly sinister turn.

Ebossé was born in Douala, Cameroon's largest city, and played for a handful of clubs in his homeland before spending a season at Malaysian side Perak FA. In 2013 he joined JS Kabylie (JSK), a club based in the northern Algerian city of Tizi Ouzou who play in the country's top-flight. During his first full season at the team, Ebossé helped JSK to runner-up spot in the league and ended the campaign as top scorer.

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But on August 23rd last year, during the second match of the 2014-15 campaign, Ebossé's life was cut short following his team's 2-1 defeat to USM Alger. Playing at their Stade du 1er Novembre 1954, Ebossé scored his team's only goal from the penalty spot in a disappointing defeat. Afterwards, JSK's fans became aggressive in the stands and threw objects at the two teams as they left the pitch. This was not major news: the club's supporters have a reputation for unrest.

Shortly after, Ebossé was taken to hospital in Tizi Ouzou; a statement from JSK eventually announced that he had "succumbed to a head injury". It was then reported that he had been struck by an object thrown from the crowd. Within a fortnight of the incident, the Algerian Sports Minister stated that a piece of slate had caused the fatal injury.

"The piece involved is identical to objects found outside the stadium, it is a serrated piece of slate," said the minister, Mohamed Tahmi, in statements reported by the local media. He added that building work nearby provided a large amount of projectiles.

The club were punished, tributes were paid, and much was said about preventing a repeat anywhere in the world of football. After this, it seemed that the case was effectively closed.

However, four months after the death, Dr Andre Moune, a pathologist hired by the Ebossé family, asserted that the player did not die as the result of anything thrown from the crowd.

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"Shortly after his death, we saw a video of Ebossé, after the match, surrounded by police and leaving the pitch to enter the dressing room," Moune told the BBC. "We didn't see anything happen to him on the pitch or anything that prevented him leaving the pitch because of a missile.

"When you see the injuries to his shoulders, the only way that can be explained is by a physical attack," Moune continued, adding that Ebossé had suffered "a blow to the head", which caused "an indentation of the skull" that impacted his brain.

The pathologist also said that the player had upper body injuries that showed "signs of struggle" and claimed that Ebossé had suffered a collarbone wound "that we believe must have been caused by a knife."

Moune was also quick to rule out the crowd-projectile theory.

"It can't be a slate tile, as the Algerians stated in their report, because if someone threw a tile, even at high speed, it couldn't cause such severe wounds like the ones I found on the body. For such an object to break through into the skull, it needs a heavy strength. The object that hit him came from close range."

Ebossé's father, Andre Bodjongo, is equally adamant that his son was the victim of foul play.

"It wasn't a rock. It wasn't a seizure. My son was murdered," Bodjongo told the BBC World Service

"All I want there to be is justice," he continued. "Those responsible for world football, they should make sure that football stays as a sport and not a war.

"If investigations are done properly they will find out who killed Albert."

Algeria's Justice Ministry is investigating the claims, though no official results have yet been published and the murder theory remains unsubstantiated beyond a doctor hired by the family. For now, the death of a young footballer, father and son remains shrouded in mystery.