Professional soccer player Arne Espeel is the latest elite athlete to die suddenly. The Belgian goalie died on Saturday during a match against Westrozebeke — collapsing on the field after saving a penalty point for his team.
Espeel, 25, played with Winkel Sport B. His team was up 2-1 in a second provincial division game played in Sint-Eloois-Winkel in the West Flanders province.
Assistant coach Stefaan Dewerchin recounted what happened: “The ball was still in play. Our goalkeeper got up as fast as possible to receive the ball, but then he fell.”
Dewerchin continued: “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.”
According to reports in Belgian media, Espeel blocked a penalty kick and then collapsed. Emergency services rushed to his aid and utilized a defibrillator, but medics could not revive the young man. A cause of death has not been announced, pending an autopsy report.
When comparing data from a scientific study conducted by the Division of Pediatric Cardiology of Lausanne University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, along with a more recent study from GoodSciencing.com, one finds that reports of healthy athletes who have died suddenly are up 1,700% since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
The list of athletes who have collapsed or died since January 2021 can be accessed here.
According to Nieuwsblad, Winkel sporting director Patrick Rotsaert said of Espeel’s passing: “This is a disaster and a shock to everyone.”
Rotsaert added: “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 ready to help. This is really a heavy blow. First of all, for his family and also our whole club.”
According to the Daily Mail, family and friends laid flowers and wreaths in the goal area where Espeel collapsed in an unofficial tribute, attended by many of Espeel’s teammates.
Espeel’s team released a statement:
“Winkel Sport is in very deep mourning by the sudden death of Arne Espeel. We wish the family and friends of Arne our heartfelt condolences in this heavy loss. Football is an afterthought.”
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