War hero footballer coaches team he loves

David Etale was a promising footballer before suffering a spine injury while serving in Afghanistan. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

David Etale was a promising footballer before suffering a spine injury while serving in Afghanistan. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A WAR hero whose promising football career was cut short by a horror Afghan blast has returned to the beautiful game – to coach the team he loves.

David Etale, 28, is to take up a position coaching the Edinburgh Spartans under 19 squad. The former striker’s return is all the more remarkable given the severe spinal injuries he suffered in the November 2009 blast, which also injured two of his pals.

The Oxgangs dad-of-one and former member of the 3Rifles still has to attend two hours of physio every day, as he pieces back together his shattered life. He did manage to make a few appearances for Spartans during his recovery but has now decided to retire from playing.

He said: “I’ve been told I will not be able to play football again and while that’s very hard, it’s made me determined to give something back to the club. They’ve really been like a family to me and have supported me through so much.”

David had already seen more than his fair share of horrors before joining the army, having lost eight members of his family, including his younger sister, during violent political instability in his home country of Kenya.

Though talented enough to play for one of Kenya’s top club sides, Tusker FC, he was still unable to make enough money to support his family and decided to join the British Army.

He said: “I saw them coming to Kenya and helping people. I joined up so I could help people around the world and see what I could do to make life in these places better.”

It was while he was based at Redford Barracks with 3Rifles in 2008 that he was first introduced to Spartans, quickly becoming one of their star players and top goal-scorers.

Heading off for a six-month tour of Helmand in October 2009, he was rushed back to Britain weeks later after a roadside bomb completely destroyed the vehicle he and two others were travelling in.

Spartans Chairman Craig Graham said the club was “delighted” to welcome David back as a coach.

He said: “The wealth of experience David can bring to his coaching sessions will be invaluable to the club. He’s a wonderful guy and it’s great to have him back.”