Star striker pays tribute to his fallen colleagues

A CITY football star who cheated death in a roadside blast today spoke of his grief over the deaths of two of his closest comrades in Afghanistan.

Spartans striker David Etale was seriously injured when the armoured vehicle he was travelling in was destroyed by a roadside bomb in Helmand.

In a matter of weeks one of his best friends, who helped save him from the blast, and his military mentor in the Redford Barracks-based 3 Rifles have been killed in action.

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The 23-year-old Kenyan international player, who lives in Dreghorn, today paid tribute to his fallen colleagues.

Serjeant Phillip Scott, 30, who taught Mr Etale how to be a soldier after he joined the 3 Rifles three years ago, was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand days before the footballer was injured, while Rifleman Aidan Howell, 19, was killed in a blast while out on patrol in the Kajaki area of Helmand province last Monday.

Mr Etale said: "Aidan was a very courageous boy and he was a very good friend of mine. When I got injured he talked to me, and he was one of the people who helped get me out of the place and to the hospital.

"When I heard he had died it hit me hard. He was a good lad."

He recalled playing football with Serjeant Scott in Afghanistan.

He added: "He taught me so many things. I just want to pay tribute to him. He was a very nice, genuine person."

Mr Etale was left unconscious after the blast in November and rushed to Camp Bastion hospital, before being flown to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.

His partner, Marie, 22, and 16-month-old daughter, Ashley, travelled to the Midlands to be by his side.

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"I can't really remember anything about the explosion. I can remember driving and then there was just a loud bang. After that, all I can remember is waking up in hospital," he said.

"Something like this happening definitely does have an impact on you.

"I would just say to people to live life to the fullest and make the most of everything, and be appreciative of everything when you wake up – and pray to God, because the situation I was in wasn't easy.

"I'm not too good yet, but I'll get there. My right leg feels dead because of the impact I got when the vehicle was blown up.

"The bone next to my spine will heal itself, and the doctors said I will be able to get back to playing football.

"I want to get back to training. I think in May I should start training again with the club. I should be ready for next season.

"I'm looking forward to seeing my team-mates again."

The football star, who played professionally in his native Kenya, began his six-month tour of duty in October and had been due to return to Edinburgh for nine days leave last month.

The blast left him with no feelings in his right leg, a fractured backbone and damaged muscles in his lower back.

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The father-of-one returned to his home in Dreghorn a few days before Christmas and has been receiving physiotherapy at Redford Barracks every day.

Another two soldiers, who were also from 3 Rifles based at Redford Barracks, were wounded in the attack and are currently recovering.