“We’re all Sevilla supporters today…”
The tragic news of the death of the 22-year-old Antonio Puerta, three days after he collapsed on the pitch in Sevilla’s opening league game against Getafe, has left Spanish football in shock.
Today is one of the saddest days in the history of Sevilla Football Club,” president José María del Nido said. “That diamond left foot of Antonio Puerta has left us, that left foot that changed our lives has left us.”
There are well over 5,000 comments from people expressing their condolences on Marca’s web site alone, while clubs from all over the country, and further afield, have expressed their sorrow, as Mark Elkington reports from Madrid.
The death has shocked people profoundly. Partly that’s because millions of people could see just how distressed he was as he collapsed during a match broadcast live on free-to-air TV in Spain. It’s also because Puerta, at the age of 22, genuinely seemed to have a brilliant future before him.
He looked ready to take a regular place in the Spanish national team, on the left side of defence or midfield. He had scored a cracking goal to send Sevilla through to the final of the UEFA Cup in 2006, making him the scorer of “the goal that changed our lives,” according to the Diario de Sevilla. He played a part as a sub in that year’s final victory over Middlesbrough and then played the whole of their 2007 UEFA Cup win against Espanyol, as well the King’s Cup final success against Getafe.
Sadly, it is by no means a unique case. As our Factbox shows, Hugo Cunha, Marcio Dos Santos, Miklos Feher, Maximiliano Patrick Ferreira, Marc-Vivien Foe, Dave Longhurst, Samuel Okwaraji and Serginho have all died in apparently similar circumstances in recent times. Marca mentions the cases of other players starting with Pedro Berruezo, also of Sevilla, back in 1973.
In Andalucia, where too many people take football far too seriously, the major shareholder of Sevilla rivals Real Betis, Manuel Ruiz de Lopera summed things up.
“We’re all Sevilla supporters today,” he said.