Goalkeeper Arne Espeel Dead on saving a penalty
Belgian lower division club Winkel Sport B goalkeeper Arne Espeel passed away after saving a penalty for his side to keep them in the lead on Saturday, February 11. The tragedy occurred during a game in Sint-Eloois-Winkel in West Flanders Province, Belgium.
The team were leading their opponents 2-1 at the time of the penalty, and Belgian media outlets reported that Espeel made the crucial save to keep Winkel in the lead. However, according to ESPN, while his teammates and supporters were joyously celebrating his save, the 25-year-old custodian collapsed on the pitch.
Emergency services rushed to his aid and attempted to revive him with a defibrillator. Unfortunately, he was declared dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.
In a statement, the club said of Espeel’s passing:
An autopsy is scheduled for Monday to ascertain the cause of Espeel’s death. In the meantime, the football community in Belgium and beyond is grieving the loss of the goalkeeper, whose commitment and talent will be forever remembered.
The exact cause of death for the “dearly loved” 25-year-old has not yet been announced, with results from an autopsy on Monday not publicly released.
Espeel’s sudden death traumatised the team, said assistant Stefaan Dewerchin.
“The ball was still in play,” he said. “Our goalkeeper got up as fast as possible to receive the ball, but then he fell. It was really terrible to watch. All the players showered 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.”
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GoalKeeper Arne Espeel for his club
He was part of the Winkel Sport B side, who are playing in the second provincial division of West Brabant in Belgium, against Westrozbeke in the game on Saturday.
His team were 2-1 up when Westrozebeke were awarded a penalty in the second half.
Belgian media reported that Espeel saved the spot kick but dropped to the ground immediately afterwards.
Emergency services attempted to revive Espeel with a defibrillator but he was pronounced dead shortly after being taken to hospital.
The game was held at Winkel Sport’s home ground in Sint-Eloois-Winkel in the West Flanders Province.
“Winkel Sport is in very deep mourning by the sudden death of Arne Espeel,” the club said in a statement.
“We wish family and friends of Arne our heartfelt condolences in this heavy loss. Football is an afterthought.”
An autopsy was scheduled to have taken place on Monday to determine the cause of Espeel’s death.
More than 1,000 people turned up to pay tribute to Espeel on Monday evening, according to the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
As per the outlet, the popular footballer was in action for Belgian football club Winkel Sport B – who play in the second provincial division of West Brabant in Belgium – against club Westrozebeke when his opponents were awarded a penalty in the second half. The 25-year-old saved the spot, however, collapsed on the pitch and dropped to the ground immediately afterwards.
Arne Espeel’s death has understandably rocked the club, with many struggling to make sense of what has happened. Winkel Sport B assistant Stefaan Dewerchin
The club’s sporting director Patrick Rotsaert also gave some insight into how difficult the news of the goalkeeper’s death was for the club.
In 1995, Winkel Sport won the title of the Third Provincial and was promoted to Second Provincial again. Two years later, in 1997, they could also return to Eerste Provinciale. Another two years later, in 1999, they also took second place in Eerste Provinciale, again behind Wervik.