By Rory Reynolds
A FORMER professional footballer turned soldier was due to return from Afghanistan last night after being injured in a roadside bomb.
Rifleman David Etale, from Edinburgh-based 3 Rifles, was left unconscious after his back bore the brunt of the blast.
The Kenyan – who now plays for Edinburgh Spartans – told his friends and family he was “recovering well” but could not walk easily, and still has shrapnel lodged in his back.
David is to be taken to a specialist army hospital in the south of England to recover.
On Saturday his side heard that their team mate had been injured the a blast just before their Scottish cup tie match against Forfar, which they went on to lose 1-0.David joined the British Army three years ago after many of his relatives were killed in the civil war in his homeland.
Spartans chairman Craig Graham said he had been shocked by the news, and added that his players’ thoughts were with David’s family.
He said: “Overshadowing all the football was the news that David was injured on Friday along with two of his colleagues in a bomb blast.
“We don’t have too many details but we do know David is in hospital.
“We’ve been told his injuries are not life threatening.
“He can speak on the phone, walk a little, but has shrapnel in his back.
“When people were first told the atmosphere was very quiet, but I think David would have wanted us to be as focused as we could on the match.
“Since then, everyone has been very keen to find out how he is.
“He was really, really popular, he really loves football and his colleagues used to call him the ‘tracksuit soldier’.
“He was also very keen to get involved with voluntary work in the community.”
Just before being deployed to Afghanistan in October David had volunteered to take a group of young fans to watch the Scotland versus Holland match.
Mr Craig added that the players were all concerned about David’s colleagues from 3 Rifles, who were injured in the attack.
He said that around 40 squaddies from 3 Rifles often came to Spartans matches.
Mike Lawson, Spartans’ joint manager said: “The bad news from Afghanistan made the football seem insignificant.
“That famous ‘life and death’ quote by Bill Shankly all those years ago couldn’t be further from the truth.
“When Craig phoned me just as I was leaving home to head down to the academy, the news we had all dreaded hearing left me numb.
“Our thoughts go to David, all his fellow soldiers out there and their families back home.”