A Belgian soccer player, 25-year old Arne Espeel, collapsed on the field right after making a save against a penalty kick. He was treated on the field before being transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced deadly a short while later.
“Winkel Sport is in very deep mourning by the sudden death of Arne Espeel,” Espeel’s club Winel Sport B said in a released statement. “We wish family and friends of Arne our heartfelt condolences in this heavy loss. Football is an afterthought.”
“This is a disaster and a shock to everyone,” team manager Patrick Rotsaert added, via The Independent. “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 willing to help. This is really a heavy blow. First of all for his family and also our entire club.”
This weekend, Arne Espeel (25) had just saved a penalty and then shortly after he collapsed and passed away. He died doing what he loved. Every day can be your last so try to enjoy life while you can. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/00RkDGbjJ6
— 𝙇𝙚ø𝙜𝙖𝙖𝙧𝙙 🇧🇪 (@afcthms) February 13, 2023
The New York Post reported on the sudden and shocking death. It noted that the goalkeeper made the save “but dropped to the ground” immediately afterward.
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.
Separate reports indicated that Espeel’s younger brother, just 20, was on the sidelines and witnessed his goalkeeping brother collapse.
“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 will be performed early next week. In the meantime, over 1,000 supporters of the late goalkeeper showed up to mourn the loss. Friends and family laid flowers and set up a vigil on the field in the goal in which Espeel collapsed.
There is no indication if the final saved goal prior to Espeel’s collapse won the game for Winkel or if the game continued or was postponed.
The United States is unfortunately not excluded from having witnessed professional sports turn up tragedy on their fields. In a now-famous NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Bills defensive player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field early in the first quarter after making what appeared to be a routine tackle.
Hamlin was given treatment on the field before being transported to a Cincinnati hospital where he made a miraculous recovery. That game, which witnessed Hamlin’s collapse in the first quarter, was ultimately paused and ultimately suspended.
Hamlin has since made appearances at a Buffalo Bills playoff game, spoke at the NFL Honors ceremony ahead of the Super Bowl, and watched the game from the field Sunday evening.
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