All weekend football in Italy has been called off following the death of Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini on Saturday, the Italian Football Federation said.
The 25-year-old, on loan from Serie A side Udinese, collapsed on the pitch during a second division game at Pescara and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
Morosini’s death comes just under a month after Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during his side’s FA Cup quarter-final match with Tottenham, prompting calls for more stringent medical checks on footballers.
The Italian Football Federation general manager Antonello Valentini responded to Saturday’s tragedy by suspending all remaining weekend football, starting with the Serie A match between AC Milan and Genoa.
The match had been due to kick-off at 6:00 pm local time (1600 GMT). Fans already at the San Siro stadium responded to that announcement largely with applause, although some jeered.
Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci later invited all Italian sports federations to observe a minute’s silence in memory of Morosini.
Morosini suffered a suspected heart attack during the first half of the match. He collapsed suddenly and was treated on the pitch before being taken away by ambulance to the Civile Santo Spirito hospital in Pescara. But he was later pronounced dead.
The player, a former Italy under-21 and youth international, had been conscious when put in the ambulance but his condition was said to be serious when he arrived at hospital.
“He looked me in the eyes when he entered the vehicle,” Pescara chief executive Danilo Iannascoli told Sky television. “Morosini fell, he tried to get back up but fell again. Our masseur realised what was happening.”
Iannascoli also said the ambulance was blocked from coming onto the pitch due to a vehicle parked in front of an exit.
Italian media were alerted to Morosini’s death initially by an “explosion of shouts and tears” from his team-mates who had come to the hospital, Italian news agency ANSA said.
Police started to usher the press away but the official confirmation followed shortly afterward.
Muamba’s collapse on March 17 raised fears that he would become another entry in the grim list of professional footballers who have died playing the game, the most high-profile being Marc-Vivien Foe.
The 28-year-old Cameroon midfielder, who played for West Ham United, Manchester City and Lyon, died after collapsing during a Confederations Cup semi-final against Colombia in Lyon in June 2003.
But Muamba — whose heart stopped for 78 minutes as medics battled to keep him alive both at the stadium and then in hospital — defied the odds and has since made incredible progress, boosting hopes that he will make a full recovery.