Gregory Mertens’ death has cast a pall over Belgium and the soccer world.
Mertens died at a hospital in Belgium on Thursday, the BBC reports. Mertens, a defender with Jupiler Pro League (Belgian first division) club Sporting Lokeren, never recovered from the heart attack he suffered on the field Monday during a reserve-team game against Genk. Mertens was 24 years old.
“The medical staff have done everything to save Gregory, but they finally had to acknowledge their impotence,” a club statement said, according to the BBC. “Gregory passed away at around 16:30.
“Gregory was only one-and-a-half years at the club, but in that short time his quiet modesty made him an indispensable person. Now we will have to learn to live with the loss.”
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Mertens had passed all the preseason physical examinations Lokoren performed and was known as one of the fittest players at the club. None of the test indicated problems with his heart, and the condition which led to his death hasn’t been determined yet.
Mertens, a former Belgium U-21 international, joined Lokoren from Cercle Brugge in January 2014. He played 15 games this season. Mertens previously played for Belgian giant Anderlecht.
Mertens is the second Belgian soccer player to die this year. Junior Malanda of Bundesliga (German first division) club Wolfsburg died in a car crash in January.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@MatchPhotos