Football goalkeeper, 25, dies on pitch seconds after saving penalty

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Belgian goalkeeper Arne Espeel has died suddenly during a match for Winkel Sport B. The shot-stopper collapsed just seconds after saving a penalty for his team.

The 25-year-old was playing against Westrozebeke in the second division of West Brabant in Belgium before he fell to the ground. Emergency services rushed to the scene and tried to save him using a defibrillator but Espeel was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at a local hospital.

The goalkeeper had reportedly pulled off an excellent save from the penalty spot just moments before tragedy struck in the second half of the match in Sint-Eloois-Winkel. Espeel rose to his feet to celebrate the save – retaining his side’s 2-1 lead – before collapsing.

The gut-wrenching scenes unfolded in front of Espeel’s parents and his brother Aaron, who was a substitute for Winkel in the seventh-tier match. The game was quickly abandoned after the severity of the incident was recognised.

The cause of the goalkeeper’s death is not yet known, with an autopsy scheduled for Monday. His club released a statement that read: “Winkel Sport is in very deep mourning at the sudden passing of goalkeeper Arne Espeel. We wish Arne’s family and friends our heartfelt condolences at this heavy loss. Football is taking a back seat for some time.

“Arne has played for us since he was a kid, and everybody really liked him. It’s impossible to understand how something like this could happen to someone so young. He had been a completely healthy young lad before.”

Winkel Sport B assistant manager Stefaan Dewerchin explained: “The ball was still in play. Our goalkeeper got up as fast as possible to receive the ball, but then he fell. It was really terrible to watch.

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“All the players came 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 realise exactly what happened.”

The club will pay tribute to Espeel by walking the streets of Sint-Eloois-Winkel. Family and friends will lead the way, with members of the club and teammates also attending the meet-up.

Speaking after the news broke of Espeel’s passing, a shaken Winkel sporting director Patrick Rotsaert told Belgian news outlet Het Nieuwsblad: “This is a disaster and a shock for us all. Arne was a lovely guy, and always ready to help others. It is a bitter blow, above all for his family and our entire club.”

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