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08-29-2007, 10:06 AM

Sevilla defender Puerta dies

August 28, 2007
Special to PA SportsTicker

SEVILLE, Spain (Ticker) - Sevilla defender Antonio Puerta died Tuesday. He was 22.

The Spain international collapsed on the field after suffering a cardiac arrest during Saturday's Primera Liga game against Getafe.

Puerta was able to walk off but suffered a relapse in the dressing room and required cardiac resuscitation. He was rushed to the Hospital Virgen del Rocio in Seville but passed away on Tuesday.

Puerta, whose girlfriend is pregnant, had been a member of the Sevilla first team for three seasons and spent 14 years in total with the Andalusian club he joined as a boy. He was capped by Spain in October.

A statement from Dr. Francisco Murillo, head of intensive care at the hospital, confirmed the death.

"We regret to announce that the patient Antonio Puerta died at 14.30 (local time) as a consequence of postpanoxic encephalopathy and multiorganic dysfunction provoked by the cardiac arrest," Murillo in a statement.

UEFA postponed Tuesday night's Champions League qualifier between AEK Athens and Sevilla, with the Sevilla squad flying back to Spain from Greece.

News of Puerta's passing left Spanish football in mourning.

The Spanish Football League issued a statement on Puerta's death,

"The Spanish Football League (LFP) sends its condolences to the family of Antonio Puerta, to Sevilla Football Club and to their fans for the sad news of the player's death," the statement read.

"The LFP has asked all their fans to respect a one-minute silence before each game of the second round of the Primera Liga."

UEFA also issued a statement of condolence.

"UEFA and the entire football family extend their sympathy and sincere condolences to the family of Antonio Puerta, Sevilla FC and the Spanish Football Association," the statement said.

Sevilla's city rival Real Betis was among the first clubs to send a public message of condolence.

"This is a blow to the whole of Seville," Betis owner Manuel Ruiz de Lopera said.

"Our thoughts are with Sevilla Football Club, with the player's family and with the player, who I am sure will be in heaven."

Spanish champions Real Madrid also sent condolences.

"Real Madrid wishes to express its profound sorrow for the death of footballer Antonio Puerta. "The club wishes to join in the pain of the family Puerta and send their sympathy to Sevilla after the news that has shocked the sporting world."

Puerta's body will from Wednesday lie in state at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Sevilla fans will be able to pay their respects.

This is not the first time the Andalusian club has experienced such a sad event as, back in 1973, Pedro Berruelo Martin died on the pitch following a cardiac arrest while playing for Sevilla in a Segunda Liga game against Pontevedra.

Spain coach Luis Aragones was deeply saddened by the news of Puerta's death.

Under Aragones, Puerta made his debut with the senior national team on October 7 2006 and was set to have a promising future for club and country.

"At this time I have no choice but to join his family in their pain," said Aragones.

"Above all was the human quality of Antonio."

Athletic Bilbao and former Sevilla coach Joaquin Caparros was equally moved.

Caparros had coached Puerta while in charge of Sevilla two years ago.

"He was a great footballer and a wonderful person with a great future ahead of him," said Caparros.

"I was never aware that had a medical condition because I remember him giving his all during training. I have a lot of memories of him - of the day I met him, the day he made his debut with the first team and the day he scored."