Former Socceroo Ernie Tapai has revealed he played battling a heart condition for much of his career without telling anyone.

Tapai – who made 37 appearances for the Socceroos – told FNR he was diagnosed with an atrial flutter at 24.

The 52-year-old was first made aware of this condition after blacking out in an international against Sweden in 1992.

“I was subbed off at half time and the medical squad thought I had a heart attack,” Tapai said.

“Consequently, a week later I was sitting watching tv at home and my heart was racing at about 180 beats-per-minute for about six hours.

“I went and had all these tests done without [Adelaide City] knowing and the results showed I had a heart problem.

“It’s quite dangerous – I was offered open heart surgery which I never told anyone because that would’ve been the end of my career.

“When the surgeon said not to worry about football I responded saying ‘if I’m going to die it’s going to be on my terms not yours’.”

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Despite experiencing episodes during training sessions  – Tapai never told any of his clubs about his heart condition.

Moves to Stoke City and Estoril saw him take tablets to slow his heart rate and limit any episodes.

“The medication was killing my adrenaline,” Tapai said.

“I didn’t have too many episodes on the field – only at training and at home.

“I would just say I’m out of breath, they would last a minute or two and could have been dangerous.

“My mindset was if I told people I wouldn’t get another contract in football.”

In 37 national team appearances Tapai scored six goals.

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Athos Sirianos
athos@footballnationradio.com.au