Belgian goalkeeper Arne Espeel died after he collapsed on the pitch on Saturday moments after saving a penalty for his team. He was 25.
Winkel Sport B, who play in the second provincial division of West Brabant in Belgium, were 2-1 up against Westrozebeke when their opponents were awarded a penalty in the second half.
According to reports in Belgian media, Espeel saved the spot kick but dropped to the ground afterward. Emergency services rushed to help Espeel and tried to revive him with a defibrillator, but he was pronounced dead shortly after he was taken to a hospital. A cause of death is not yet known.
“This is a disaster and a shock to everyone,” Winkel sporting director Patrick Rotsaert said, according to Nieuwsblad.
“Arne had been with the club all his life and was very loved. He was a wonderfully sympathetic boy, always in a good mood and ready to help. This is really a heavy blow. First of all for his family and also our whole club.”
The game was played at the club’s home ground in Sint-Eloois-Winkel in the West Flanders Province.
Family and friends gathered at the field to lay flowers and wreaths in the goal where Espeel collapsed, according to the Daily Mail. Espeel’s teammates were also present for the ceremony.
“The ball was still in play. Our goalkeeper got up as fast as possible to receive the ball, but then he fell,” assistant coach Stefaan Dewerchin said, via the Daily Mail.
“It was really terrible to watch. All the players showered together after the incident. When the message came that our goalkeeper was dead, it was an unusually heavy blow. I think some players still don’t realize exactly what happened.”
An autopsy was scheduled to have taken place on Monday to determine the cause of Espeel’s death.
“Winkel Sport is in very deep mourning by the sudden death of Arne Espeel,” the club said in a statement.
“We wish family and friends of Arne our heartfelt condolences in this heavy loss. Football is an afterthought.”
— With Reuters