Italian football came together on Saturday to pay tribute to the Livorno player Piermario Morosini, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest during his team's Serie B match at Pescara. He was 25.
Morosini, who was on loan from Udinese, collapsed in the 31st minute of the match. He was treated on the pitch before being taken to Pescara's Santo Spirito hospital. The match was abandoned, with many players leaving the field in tears.
Soon afterwards, Serie B announced that the player had died before he reached hospital. The chief cardiologist of the Pescara hospital, who was in the stands watching and rushed down to help the initial treatment, said Morosini had never regained consciousness.
"He never had a single heartbeat again," Leonardo Paloscia told reporters. "From when I arrived he never gave a sign of revival, not in respiration or heartbeat. When I arrived everything was still."
The Italian Football Association immediately announced the postponement of all the weekend's remaining matches, "in memory of Piermario".
Italian press reported that a parked car belonging to traffic police had initially blocked the ambulance's path into the stadium and its window had to be broken so the car could be moved. The club's general manager, Danilo Iannascoli, said: "He collapsed, he tried to get back up but then collapsed again … I don't know if the ambulance was late, but I do know that its entrance was blocked."
Many of those who paid tribute to Morosini as news spread made particular reference to the series of personal tragedies he had to overcome to pursue his dream of a football career.
His former coach in Atalanta's youth team, Mino Favini, told reporters: "He was a golden boy. He grew up at Atalanta with me and I saw him playing as a very young kid. He was a fantastic lad who always rushed to help everyone. He lived for his family. That was Piermario.
"Yet he was such an unlucky man. He lost both parents when he was young, his siblings have physical handicaps. His little brother recently killed himself by jumping out of a window. He had the most unfortunate life. But he was very talented. He had a strong career, was respected by all. Everywhere he went, people spoke highly of him. He had a heart of gold."
Morosini, born in Bergamo, moved to Udinese in 2005 from Atalanta's youth academy before embarking on a series of loan spells elsewhere – first at Bologna, then Reggina, Padova, Vicenza and finally Livorno. He made 18 appearances for Italy's under-21s.
Asked in 2005 about how the loss of his parents had affected his determination to progress in football, Morosini said: "They are things which mark you and change you. But at the same time they instil in your body so much anger, that it drives you to give everything to realise what was also my parents' dream."
The Udinese owner, Giampaolo Pozzo, said Morosini's death was his "saddest day in football", and welcomed the decision to postpone all the weekend's games.
"I cannot remember a tragedy like this in my 26 years in the game," said Pozzo. "I remember him well as he was a very serious lad, very professional. He often played away on loan, but he was always back here punctually for pre‑season.
"This news has hit us hard. Credit to the FIGC [the Italian FA] for quickly calling off all games, because there was no way we could have played today after this."
Roberto Baronio, a former team-mate at Udinese, told Italy's Sky Sport 24 that he could not comprehend the loss.
"There are no words to describe this chilling feeling. It is absurd: he was just 25 years old. I got to know him when I was at Udinese, and he was just coming through the youth ranks. He made his debut that year against AC Milan: you could see he was a hot prospect."
Morosini's death comes just four weeks after Bolton Wanderers' Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest playing in an FA Cup tie at Tottenham Hotspur. Muamba, like Morosini, was treated on the pitch by medical staff including a cardiologist who happened to be watching, before being taken to hospital, where Bolton say he continues to make "strong and steady improvements" in his recovery.
Many others were not so fortunate. Marc-Vivien Foé died in Lyon during Cameroon's Confederations Cup match against Colombia in 2003; Sevilla's Antonio Puerta died in 2007, three days after collapsing during a league match against Getafe; the Motherwell midfielder Phil O'Donnell died after a cardiac arrest during a match in December 2007; and Espanyol's Dani Jarque died in 2009.
Baronio, though, said he believes that the number of medical tests footballers undergo, recently increased in Italy, meant the tragedy could not have been avoided. "I think it is just destiny," he said. "It surprises me that it happens to professional footballers, but it is not down to the lack of checks: we have them every two months. This could simply happen to anybody, just as it happened to Muamba. We cannot understand why. It is destiny which has taken Piermario away."
Morosini's former Vicenza teammate Raffaele Schiavi, now a defender at Padova, posted a picture of Morosini's smiling face on Twitter. "Despite the many family problems he had, Moro always had a smile on his face and never let those issues come through. It's how I want to remember him."