Soccer is one of the best and most entertaining sports in the world. The round-leather game is cherished by many. It has served uncountable memories throughout history.
While most of these memories are exciting, numerous tragedies have also occurred. One of the most tragic scenes that can be witnessed in football is to see a player dying on the pitch.
Here, TOP SOCCER BLOG presents you with some of the most devastating incidents of footballers who died on the field.
1. Marc-Vivien Foé
On the 26th of June 2003, in the 72nd minute of the match of a FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final match between Cameroon and Columbia, midfielder Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed in the center circle with no player near him.
He was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and oxygen after being stretchered off the field following attempts to revive him on the pitch.
Despite medics’ 45-minute efforts to restart his heart, he died shortly after arriving at the stadium’s medical center.
An autopsy attributed his death to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary condition that increases the risk of sudden death during physical activity.
Foé’s widow, Marie-Louise, reported that he had been suffering from gastric problems and dysentery before his final game, but he insisted on playing in his beloved adopted hometown of Lyon.
Moreso, Cameroon manager Winfried Schäfer wanted to substitute him minutes before his collapse, observing that the player seemed fatigued, but he signaled that he wanted to continue.
Foé’s sudden death sent shockwaves through the football community worldwide, and he is remembered as a talented player and a great loss to the sport.
Manchester City briefly retired the number 23 shirt, and Olympique Lyon retired the number 17 shirt, which he wore during his time at both clubs, respectively.
2. Samuel Okwaraji
Samuel Okwaraji was a Nigerian professional footballer and a qualified lawyer with a master’s degree in international law.
He played for the Nigerian national team and various European clubs.
Nigerian midfielder Samuel Okwaraji collapsed and died on the field 10 minutes after a 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Angola in Lagos.
He died from possible complications of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, as an autopsy showed that the 25-year-old had an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.
His sudden death shocked the Nigerian football community and the entire nation, and he is remembered as a patriot who placed his country above personal needs.
3. Antonio Puerta
In August 2007, Antonio Puerta collapsed and lost consciousness in the penalty area due to a cardiac arrest during Sevilla’s first La Liga fixture of the 2007/08 season against Getafe.
He was seen crouching and then subsequently collapsing upon moving back to his team’s goal after only 35 minutes of the game had passed.
Teammates, Ivica Dragutinović and Andrés Palop immediately ran to his side as he lost consciousness; moments later, club medical staff and other players followed suit.
After recovering and being substituted, Puerta was able to walk to the dressing room, where he collapsed once again.
He was resuscitated by the doctors and taken by ambulance to the intensive care unit of Virgen del Rocío hospital, where he received cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Unfortunately, Puerta died on the 28th of August 2007.
Dr Francisco Murillo reported that the player had suffered multiple organ failures and irreversible brain damage as a result of multiple prolonged cardiac arrests due to an incurable, hereditary heart disease known as arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.
As a mark of respect, players from both Sevilla and city rivals Real Betis attended his funeral days after his death.
Subsequently, FIFA ordered the installation of resuscitation rooms in every stadium that hosted the World Cup qualifiers.
4. Orobosan Adun
Prior to a 2009 away game against Enugu Rangers, Orobosan Adun, the goalkeeper for Warri Wolves FC, was attacked by suspected thugs who were believed to be supporters of the opposing team.
Tragically, Adun passed away three days after the incident due to internal bleeding that occurred during a training session.
5. Endurance Idahor
Endurance Idahor collapsed while playing a match for his Sudanese club Al Merreikh against Alamal Atbara. He died in the ambulance.
An autopsy report revealed that the Nigerian suffered a circulatory collapse from a heart attack.
6. Cheick Tioté
Tioté was part of a talented Cote d’ Ivoire team that was dominant on the African continent in the mid-2000s.
He earned 55 caps for the Ivorian national and was part of the Elephants squad that won the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
He is one of the greatest African players who played for Newcastle. And also had a flourishing career playing for various clubs in Europe and Asia like Newcastle United, FC Twente, and Beijing Enterprises.
The Ivorian defensive midfielder, Cheick Tioté, collapsed and lost consciousness during a training session for Beijing Enterprises in 2017.
The 30-year-old was pronounced dead (due to a heart attack) later that day.
7. Miklós Fehér
Miklós Fehér played for Benfica against Vitória de Guimaraes on January 25, 2004.
The match was televised live, and Benfica were leading 1-0. Fehér was a substitute who came on and assisted in the game’s only goal.
In injury time, he received a yellow card, bent forward in apparent pain, and then fell backward onto the ground.
Players from both teams immediately came to his aid, and medical staff soon arrived on the pitch to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
He was then transported to the hospital via ambulance, and throughout the day, the Portuguese media covered his condition.
Tragically, he was confirmed dead before midnight, with the cause of his death being cardiac arrhythmia due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
In memory of Fehér, Benfica retired his number 29 jersey, which he had worn during his time at the club.
His passing deeply shocked the world of Portuguese sports, and many paid their respects, including Porto director of football Reinaldo Teles and manager José Mourinho, who visited the Estádio da Luz where Fehér’s body remained before his final burial in Hungary.
8. Patrick Ekeng
On the 6th of May 2016, Patrick Ekeng was introduced as a second-half substitute in a televised match against Viitorul Constanța.
He had been fatigued that day and had informed his best friend that he did not want to play.
Seven minutes after his entrance — with his team leading 3-2 — he collapsed.
The 26-year-old was transported and resuscitated at the hospital, and within two hours, the medical staff confirmed that he had died. The cause of his death was a heart attack.
An inquiry by the Romanian interior ministry found that the ambulance transporting Ekeng had faulty equipment and expired medicine.
The private company in charge (Puls) had its license suspended for 30 days and was fined 23,800 Romanian lei.
Dr Elena Duta was charged with manslaughter on reports that she did not attempt to resuscitate Ekeng in the ambulance.
In June 2020, she was sentenced to an 18-month suspended sentence, €200,000 fine, and 60 days of community service.
9. Luyanda Ntshangase
Luyanda Ntshangase was a South African professional footballer who played for Maritzburg United in the South African Premier Division.
During a friendly game in March 2018, Luyanda Ntshangase was struck by lightning; suffering burns to his chest.
Despite being taken to hospital and placed in an induced coma, he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead a day later.
He was only 21.
10. Chineme Martins
Chineme Martins was a Nigerian footballer who played as a midfielder for Nasarawa United.
During a league game against Katsina United in March 2020, Martins collapsed on the pitch and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
11. Piermario Morosini
In April 2012, Livorno player Piermario Morosini suffered cardiac arrest and fell to the ground in the 31st minute of the Serie B match away to Pescara.
He stumbled on the ground while trying to get up before losing consciousness and receiving medical attention on the field.
A defibrillator was used on Morosini, who was conscious when he was taken on the stretcher.
According to the news agency ANSA, a city police car was blocking the stadium’s exit for the ambulance for nearly a minute, but a heart specialist said that the delay made no difference.
The Italian was taken to the hospital, the match was abandoned with Livorno leading 2-0, and some players reportedly “left the field in tears.”
Although Morosini was rushed to the hospital, reports later indicated he died before reaching the hospital.
His death came 4 weeks after Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in an English FA Cup match, but he survived.
12. Chinonso Ihelwere Henry
21-year-old Chinonso Ihelwere Henry collapsed in the 86th minute of a friendly match in Romania after having been brought on just 10 minutes earlier.
With the temperature being 40 °C, doctors tried reviving the Nigerian player for 30 minutes before declaring him dead.
He was reported to have undergone health tests a week before his death, with no signs of problems detected. The cause of his death was heart failure.
13. Mohammad Fahad
Kuwaiti midfielder, Mohammad Fahad, collided with another player in June 2013, causing him severe bleeding in the brain.
He was in a coma before dying several days later.
14. Akli Fairuz
Akli Fairuz died in 2014 after colliding with an opposition goalkeeper during a match in the Indonesian Premier League.
Fairuz was substituted and admitted to the hospital but died due to internal bleeding the next day.
15. Albert Ebossé Bodjongo
On the 23rd of August 2014, Albert Ebossé Bodjongo was struck on the head by a projectile thrown by an unknown person while the teams were leaving the field at the end of a game between two Algeria clubs.
The match had ended in a 2-1 defeat for his team, with Bodjongo scoring his side’s goal.
He died a few hours later in the hospital of a traumatic brain injury, aged just 24.
Following Bodjongo’s death, the Algerian Football Federation suspended all football activities indefinitely and ordered the closure on the 1st of November 1954 stadium.
Subsequent coroners’ post-mortem results released in December 2014 showed that Bodjongo may have died from a severe beating and not from a projectile, as was initially claimed!!!
16. Faty Papy
Burundian midfielder, Faty Papy — who was previously reported to have had a heart condition — collapsed and died in April 2019 while playing a match in Eswatini for Malanti Chiefs.
17. Peter Biaksangzuala
Peter Biaksangzuala was an Indian professional footballer who played as a defensive midfielder for Bethlehem Vengthlang FC in the Mizoram Premier League, which is the elite amateur league of the small North Eastern Indian province of Mizoram.
On October 19, 2014, during a match against Chanmari West FC, Biaksangzuala scored an equalizer and attempted a somersault goal celebration.
Unfortunately, he landed awkwardly and suffered spinal cord damage, which led to his death on October 23, 2014, at the age of 23.
18. Nduka Anyanwu
Nduka Anyanwu was a Nigerian footballer who played in defense or midfield for various European clubs, including Eintracht Frankfurt and SV Geinsheim.
In September 2010, Nigerian player Nduka Anyanwu collapsed during a league match in Germany while playing for SV Geinsheim and could not be revived.
19. Naoki Matsuda
Japanese player, Naoki Matsuda, slumped during training in August 2011 due to a cardiac arrest after finishing a 15-minute warmup run, and doctors diagnosed his condition as “extremely severe.”
He died two days later.
20. Yair Clavijo
18-year-old Peruvian defender, Yair Clavijo, died during a reserve match for Sporting Cristal against Real Garcilaso on the 20th of June 2013.
The autopsy determined he died from a cerebral edema with brain herniation caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.