Player dies; match off

Sevilla’s Spanish international defender Antonio Puerta, 22, died yesterday after suffering a heart attack during a Spanish league match last weekend, prompting the postponement of his team’s game against AEK in Athens last night. Sevilla was due to meet AEK in a return leg for a place in the Champions League’s group stage. Puerta had been in «very critical» condition in the intensive care unit of Seville’s Virgen del Rocio hospital where he had been hooked up to a life support machine. He collapsed after half an hour of Sevilla’s 4-1 win over Getafe on the opening day of the Spanish season. Confirming Puerta had died, the hospital said the death followed «postanoxic encephalopathy,» a delayed coma resulting from a reduction of oxygen supply to the brain, and «secondary multiorgan failure following a prolonged cardiac arrest.» He was able to walk gingerly to the dressing rooms where he collapsed a second time before being taken to hospital. UEFA spokesman William Gaillard said yesterday: «Sevilla requested that they be allowed to return home and in the circumstances we could only grant that request.» Though the club’s administrative leadership was informed of Puerta’s death earlier in the day, the news was not broken to his teammates until later in the afternoon. Shocked by the news, Sevilla’s squad returned to Spain later yesterday. AEK had also submitted an official request to have the game postponed because of the devastation felt among the squad because of the unprecedented fires that have swept through various parts of Greece in recent days. But UEFA had said the match would go ahead as planned because there were «no immediate fire problems in or around the stadium itself.» Last night’s postponed return leg has been rescheduled for Monday. Sevilla holds a 2-0 advantage. However, an upcoming commitment, later in the week, for the Spanish team, has not been changed. Sevilla, last season’s UEFA Cup winner for a second time in a row, will need to face AC Milan, the reigning Champions League winner, this Friday in the Super Cup. (Kathimerini, AFP)