Fans pay homage to footballer who died after game

29th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

Fans pay homage to footballer who died after game

29 August 2007

SEVILLE - Thousands of football fans gathered at Sevilla's studium Wednesday to pay their last respects to defender Antonio Puerta, who died three days after suffering a heart attack during the club's opening match of the Spanish league on Saturday.

The body of the 22-year-old, who made his national team debut last season, was moved to the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium from the hospital where he died on Tuesday as supporters chanted: "Puerta, friend, Seville is with you".

Puerta will be buried at a cemetary in Seville in southwestern Spain at 2pm (1200 GMT), the club said.

Fans from both Sevilla and its cross-town rivals Real Betis left football scarves, candles and dozens of flower arrangements at the stadium while long lines formed to file past the player's coffin, which was draped in Sevilla's centenary flag.

At the coffin's side were the recent trophies which Puerta helped the club win, including last season's UEFA Cup.

The Sevilla squad went directly to the stadium after rushing back from Athens where they had been set to play a Champions League return leg against AEK Athens on Tuesday night.

UEFA postponed the encounter.

Accompanied by Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido and the club's coach Juande Ramos, the squad was greeted with applause on their arrival by some 20,000 supporters with cries of "Sevilla! Sevilla! Sevilla!".

The player's family, including his girlfirend Mar, who is seven months pregnant, held a silent vigil by the coffin.

The Champions League match has now been scheduled for Monday although the UEFA Cup champions' Super Cup match against Champions League winners AC Milan, scheduled for Friday, has been maintained.

Spain's sports newspapers also paid homage to Puerta.

"Antonio Puerta, the injustice of dying at the age of 22. Why?" wrote sports daily Marca in its headline while daily newspaper La Razon said: "The heart of football has stopped."

In an editorial, top-selling daily newspaper El Pais said Puerta's death had touched the public and "raised questions about the demands of professional sports."

Sevilla has scheduled four "high level" matches in just four days, it said.

Puerta, who reportedly sparked interest from English Premiership sides Arsenal and Manchester United earlier this year, collapsed after half an hour of Sevilla's 4-1 win over Getafe.

He was able to walk to the dressing rooms where he collapsed a second time before being taken to hospital where he remained hooked up to a life support machine until he died.

[Copyright AFP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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