Spanish football pays final respects to Puerta

Thousands of people turned out in Seville to pay their final respects to Antonio Puerta, who died yesterday after collapsing on the pitch during last weekend’s Primera Liga match between Sevilla and Getafe.

Thousands of people turned out in Seville to pay their final respects to Antonio Puerta, who died yesterday after collapsing on the pitch during last weekend’s Primera Liga match between Sevilla and Getafe.

The 22-year-old Sevilla wing-back suffered a cardiac arrest during the first half of Saturday’s game, and although he was able to walk off Puerta suffered a relapse in the dressing room and required cardiac resuscitation.

The Spain international was rushed to the Hospital Virgen del Rocio in Seville but passed away yesterday afternoon.

A crowd estimated to be around 20,000 packed the streets outside Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, where a funeral chapel had been set up so that people could pay their last respects to Puerta.

Among the mourners were scores of figures from the world of football, including Puerta’s Sevilla team-mates and players from local rivals Real Betis.

After being carried from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Puerta’s coffin was then taken to the city’s San Fernando cemetery for a private burial ceremony.

Tributes also continued to pour in for Puerta, whose girlfriend is pregnant, from clubs and players all over Spain.

Valencia winger Joaquin Sanchez, who came up through the youth ranks at Betis, described Puerta as a “noble” person.

“I am hurt because we have lived with the hope that somehow he could get better, but that has not happened,” Joaquin said.

“I knew him and as a person, not only as a footballer, he was noble. These are very delicate and painful moments and, along with all my team-mates, we want to send our condolences to the family and to Sevilla.”

Spain international striker Fernando Torres, who swapped Atletico Madrid for Liverpool this summer, said: “Antonio, with whom I shared very good moments in the national team, showed everyone his great quality as a footballer and as a person, and leaves a void that is impossible to fill.”

Real Zaragoza announced on their website: “Real Zaragoza will share in the pain of Antonio Puerta’s family and all the Sevilla fans in the events that are taking place today.

“Board member Juan Fabre travelled to Sevilla this morning along with three members of the Zaragoza first team, Luis Carlos Cuartero, Gabi Fernandez and Sergio Garcia, who will be at the San Fernando cemetery as representatives of the club.”

Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic were in attendance at the funeral, along with Real’s team captains Raul and Guti.

Also there from the Spanish champions were squad members Sergio Ramos, Julio Baptista and Javier Saviola, who all played alongside Puerta at Sevilla.

Raul said: “It’s a shame, a huge loss for Spanish football, a player that had an extraordinary future in store who had already made his national team debut, a real shame. It’s the news we never wanted to hear, but that finally reached us.”

Osasuna defender Javier Flano added: “I am very hurt. Personally I still don’t believe it. I want to give my most sincere condolences to the family and all the people affected. I remember him as a very open person, a very good person.”

From Barcelona, president Joan Laporta, captain Carles Puyol and sporting director Txiki Begiristain attended the memorial service, while some clubs held a minute’s silence for Puerta at their training sessions.

Among those were Espanyol, with coach Ernesto Valverde saying: “We all believed that he (Puerta) could overcome these problems.

“We have had a minute’s silence in his memory before the start of training. To think now of winning or losing games, winning or losing titles or starting well or badly has much less importance than what has happened to Sevilla and the family of the player.

“We can only send them our respects and let them know we are with them.”

Meanwhile, UEFA have confirmed that Friday’s Super Cup match between Sevilla and AC Milan will go ahead.

“The match will go ahead on Friday as scheduled,” said a UEFA spokesman.

“A tribute will be paid to Antonio Puerta with a minute’s silence before the game, the players wearing black armbands and the flags at half-mast.”

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