The sport of association football, which is more commonly known as football in many parts of the world and soccer in America, is without a shred of doubt the world’s most popular sport. Football is indeed a beautiful and very fun game, which is why it is the most loved sports in the world. Not only is the game interesting to play, but it is also incredibly entertaining to watch – especially when watching gifted and legendary players like Pele, Ronaldo, Messi, Diego Maradona, etc display their mesmerizing skills on the field of play against their opponents with such brilliance you are left enchanted.
But believe it or not, while football is a very fun sport, it can also be a very dangerous and deadly sport for both players and supporters. Over the years several dozens of professional and amateur footballers have sustained life threatening injuries that abruptly ended their careers whereas others have also tragically lost their lives from injuries that they sustained while playing on the field. For example, in the past decade alone, over a dozen football players tragically lost their lives as a result of a medical condition they suffered from while playing.
The following is a list of 10 footballers who died on the field. Their sudden deaths on the football pitch shocked their respective countries and the world at large:
10 Phil O’Donnell
Scottish professional footballer Phil O’Donnell died on the pitch after suffering a heart failure while playing for his club Motherwell.
O’Donnell, who was the captain of Motherwell, tragically lost his life on December 29, 2007 after he collapsed during his side’s game against Dundee United.
The unfortunate incident happened towards the end of the match – just as O’Donnell was about to be substituted by his coach.
According to the then Motherwell manager Mark McGhee, O’Donnell was standing alone, with no player around him when he suddenly collapsed. McGhee revealed that doctors from both Motherwell and Dundee United worked feverishly together in an attempt to revive O’Donnell while he lay unconscious on the pitch. About five minutes later O’Donnell was rushed into a waiting ambulance and taken to Wishaw General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
He was only 35 years old. A postmortem examination revealed that O’Donnell died after suffering from a left ventricular failure of the heart. Simply put, he died from heart failure.
9. David Longhurst
David Longhurst died on the pitch from heart failure in September 1990. Longhurst was only 25 years old at the time of his sudden and shocking death. Longhurst was a very gifted English footballer, who during his career as a professional footballer, played for several important clubs such as Nottingham Forest, Northampton Town, and York City (the team he played for at the time of his death).
Longhurst’s death happened on September 8, 1990 when he suddenly collapsed while featuring in a game between his club York City and Lincoln City. Doctors tried feverishly to revive Longhurst after his collapse, but their efforts were in vain. Longhurst was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
A post-mortem examination on Longhurst’s body revealed that he suffered from a rare heart condition known as cardiomyopathy. Doctors said it was the rare heart condition that eventually led to his heart failure on the pitch.
Following Longhurst’s death, his club York City named one of the stands at their Bootham Crescent stadium after him.
Serginho died at the age of 30 after collapsing while playing a match in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The young Brazillian professional footballer, whose real name was Paulo Sergio Oliveira da Silva, died on October 27, 2004 during a game between his team Sao Caetano and Sao Paulo.
About 60 minutes into the game, Serginho suffered from a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the pitch. Medics from both teams rushed to help resuscitate Serginho but their efforts proved futile. The 30-year-old was later confirmed dead at a nearby hospital. The rest of the match was abandoned and continued on a later date.
An autopsy revealed that his heart weighed beyond the normal weight of a human heart. Simply put, Serginho had an enlarged heart and that caused his death.
After Serginho’s death, it was later revealed that Sao Caetano’s doctors knew of Serginho’s enlarged heart condition and knew he stood a risk of suffering from a cardiac arrest but thought that the risk was not very significant and therefore let him play matches. But unfortunately for Serginho, the risk proved serious and caused him to suffer a fatal cardiac arrest. The club was later penalized by the authorities for allowing Serginho to play even though they were aware of his heart condition.
7. Robbie James
Legendary Welsh footballer Robbie James died at the age of 40 while playing a match in February 1998.
The tragic incident occurred at Stebonheath Park on February 18, 1998 during a match between James’ club Llanelli and Porthcawl.
The match was like any other match Robbie had played throughout his several decades of playing football professionally. He put in his best and played his heart out, but unfortunately for him something very terrible happened in the middle of the match. As the game progressed and Llanelli led Porthcawl, Robbie suddenly collapsed on the field. Despite all the frantic efforts made by doctors, Robbie couldn’t be revived. His official cause of death was a heart attack. Robbie’s tragic death plunged the whole of Wales into a state of mourning.
In his obituary published in The Independent, Robbie was said to have played his final game to the very last with every ounce of his being.
Between 1973 and 1994, Robbie reportedly played a total of 783 games in the English league and scored 133 goals.
6. Cristiano Junior
Promising young Brazilian footballer Cristiano Junior died at the age of 25 while scoring a goal in a match.
The sad incident occurred on December 5, 2004 during the Federation Cup final between Junior’s team Dempo Sports Club and Mohun Bagan in Bangalore, India.
In the 78th minute of the game, Junior scored his second goal for the game, a goal which eventually cost him his life. While scoring this goal, the young footballer chased the speeding ball into the penalty box, kicked it into the net and collided with Mohun Bagan’s goalkeeper Subrata Pal in the process. He staggered for a while and then collapsed on the pitch. For a moment fans and his teammates assumed he was just celebrating his goal. It took a moment for them to realize what was truly happening whereupon there was a mad rush to assist the injured player. Medics tried their best to resuscitate him but Junior simply couldn’t be revived. He was taken off the field unconscious and died on arrival at the Hosmat Hospital. An autopsy report later revealed that Junior died of a cardiac arrest.
Following Junior’s death, his club decided to honor him by retiring the number 10 jersey that he wore.
Above is the video footage of when Junior collided with Subrata Pal and collapsed. He died not too long after that.
5. Ivan Beli Krsti?
Ivan Beli Krsti? was a 19-year-old Serbian footballer whose tragic death shook the football community in no small way. Krsti? died on May 29, 2000 when he was struck by lightning while training with his teammates on the field. According to reports, the bolt of lightning that struck Krsti? was so severe that it instantly killed him on the pitch right in front of his teammates and some supporters gathered there to watch the training session.
At the time of his shocking death, Krsti? played for the Yugoslavia national under 21 team and also played for the club FK Radni?ki Niš, which he captained.
Following Krsti?’s death, his club FK Radni?ki Niš decided to honor him in two remarkable ways. The first honor the club did him was to stop using the number 10 jersey, which was Krsti?’s number. Currently no player in the club wears the number 10 jersey. The second honor the club did the 19-year-old was to name their youth academy after him.
4. Miklós Fehér
Professional Hungarian footballer Miklós Fehér died at the age of 24 from a cardiac arrest during a match between his team Benfica and Vitoria de Guimarães.
On January 25, 2004, the 24-year-old Hungarian footballer came on as a substitute in the 60th minute in his team’s game with Vitoria Guimaraes.
Fehér played well and even helped his teammate Fernando Aguiar to score the game’s only goal. But shortly after the goal was scored something very shocking happened. During injury time, Fehér was shown a yellow card. He smiled for a while after being booked, bent forward with his hands touching his knees as though he was in severe pain and then collapsed backwards onto the field.
His teammates and opposition players rushed to his side to try and revive him before medical personnel arrived and took over. And as the medics tried resuscitating him, many were seen crying – including Benfica’s then coach Jose Antonio Camacho. Unfortunately, despite all the frantic efforts put into trying to save Fehér, he died. A post-mortem examination on his body revealed the cause of death to be a cardiac arrest. Fehér’s death sent massive shockwaves all over Portugal and Hungary.
3. Samuel Okwaraji
Legendary Nigerian footballer Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji popularly known as just Samuel Okwaraji tragically died on the field of play on August 12, 1989 in Lagos, Nigeria. Okwaraji’s tragic and sudden death is till today considered one of Africa’s most shocking footballer deaths ever. Okwaraji was only 25 years old when he collapsed and died on the field while playing for Nigeria’s Super Eagles in a World Cup Qualifier against Angola.
The shocking incident happened exactly in the 77th minute of play in front of over 20,000 Nigerian football fans at the Lagos National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.
In the second half of the game – just about 13 minutes to the end of the game, Okwaraji suddenly collapsed on the field leaving his teammates, opponents and the thousands of spectators gathered at the stadium in a state of confusion and shock. Medics rushed to the field and tried all they could do to resuscitate the 25-year-old but to no avail. He was pronounced dead on the pitch. Okwaraji’s official cause of death was attributed to a congestive heart failure that came about as a result of a high blood pressure and an enlarged heart.
Okwaraji’s death indeed shocked the whole of Nigeria to its core. And even though the death occurred over 20 years ago, many football fans all over the world can’t seem to forget about it. Currently there is a statue in front of the National Stadium in Surulere in honor of Okwaraji.
2. Piermario Morosini
Famous Italian professional footballer Piermario Morosini suffered a fatal cardiac arrest on the field on April 14, 2012 during a match between his team Livorno and Pescara. He was 25 years of age.
In the 31st minute of the game at the Stadio Adriatico, Morosini suddenly collapsed and fell face first on the pitch after suffering from a cardiac arrest. Since the match was being broadcast live, footage of Morosini’s collapse took no time in circulating all over social media. It was really shocking the way the 25-year-old midfielder, suddenly collapsed on the field and briefly tried getting up before instantly slumping back down again and losing consciousness.
Morosini received medical attention on the field before being stretched into an ambulance, which delayed for a while before leaving the stadium for the nearby Santo Spirito hospital because a city police car blocked the entrance to the pitch. Eventually the car was moved and the ambulance made its way to the hospital where Morosini was pronounced dead.
Following Morosini’s tragic death, the Italian Football Federation decided to postpone all of the remaining weekend’s league fixtures.
Morosini’s death left his disabled sister with no family since he was the only family she had. Morosini lost his mother when he was 15. His father died two years later. Soon after his father died, his disabled brother took his own life leaving him alone with his physically handicapped older sister.
If this isn’t heartbreaking, then what is?
1. Marc-Vivien Foe
Legendary Cameroonian footballer Marc-Vivien Foe died suddenly in the middle of an international fixture when he was just 28 years old. Foe’s death shocked football fans all over the world considering how famous Foe was and the circumstances under which he died. It was indeed shocking and totally heartbreaking!
Foe died on June 26, 2003 during a match between his country Cameroon and Colombia held at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon, France. In the 72nd minute of the match, Foe, who was all alone at the center circle of the pitch, suddenly collapsed.
The medical staff tried several times to resuscitate him on the field, but to no avail. He was then hurriedly stretchered off the field to the sideline where doctors gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and oxygen in the desperate attempt to resuscitate him. But unfortunately Foe couldn’t be resuscitated.
Medics reportedly spent 45 minutes trying their best to restart Foe’s heart, but to no avail. Foe sadly died shortly after arriving at the stadium’s medical center.
An autopsy revealed that Foe had a hereditary heart condition called cardiomyopathy hypertrophia, which increases a person’s risk of death during intense activity. The autopsy report therefore concluded that Foe died of natural causes.
Foe’s death, which till today is considered one of the most shocking deaths on the field of play, received massive coverage all over the world. The worldwide football community came together to mourn the death of Foe for weeks. Even though Foe died several years ago, his death is still frequently remembered with great sadness all over the world. At the time of his death, Foe was survived by his widow and three children.
NOTE: Readers should take note of the important fact that these are not the only footballers who died on the field. Over the years there have been dozens of footballers who died while playing on the pitch. The above footballers are footballers whose deaths on the field were so big that they left the whole world talking about them.