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21-year-old Argentine soccer player dies from head injury suffered during match

There will be no games played in Argentina this weekend out of respect for Emanuel Ortega.


Josh Katzowitz


Posted on May 15, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 8:06 pm CDT

Emanuel Ortega, a 21-year-old Argentine professional soccer player, died Thursday from complications of a head injury suffered during a fourth-divison match last week.

Ortega, playing for San Martín de Burzaco, suffered a reported skull injury while battling for possession with a Juventud Unida player when the Juventud player shoved him away from the ball and into the wall that surrounds the field. Here’s what happened during the play that ended with Ortega fracturing his skull. Warning: The video might be disturbing for some.

After Ortega’s death was reported Thursday, Luis Segura, the president of the Argentine Football Association, said all soccer matches in the country will be postponed this weekend to honor Ortega.

“Everyone agreed to it,” Segura said, via the Associated Press. “One shouldn’t play, out of respect for the magnitude of the tragedy. I don’t think anyone is in the mood to think about a football match.”

In the immediate aftermath of the injury, San Martín coach Cristian Ferlauto decried the fact that the field’s sideline and the wall were situated so close together. He also said he believed there was no intent for the Juventud player to injure Ortega.

“They played a ball near the line, grabbed him badly and ended up in this,” Ferlauto said, via Deadspin. “The wall is one meter from the touchline. It’s crazy, there is no protection. The security measures are made thinking about people in the highest stands so they don’t throw stones, and these things got overlooked. It is a disgrace.”

As Sports Illustrated explains, though, “The wall anchors a fence designed to prevent fans from throwing objects onto the field,” which is a real problem in Argentine soccer.

In 2012, Ortega wrote in a Facebook post how much soccer meant to him. Here’s how that post reads translated by the Daily Mirror.

Perhaps I won’t ever play football professionally. Maybe I will, or maybe as an amateur, but when I go for each ball I am going to die, when my legs say STOP, my heart says CONTINUE.

The difference between me and professionals is that when my boots break, I don’t change them, I spent all night tidying them up and gluing them back together so I can play again because it is what I love.

Football is my LIFE, not only a past-time, it is what makes me forget everything else, and I will give my life for it.

The day that I can’t play anymore, that is where my life ends.

Screengrab via TyC Sports/YouTube

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*First Published: May 15, 2015, 12:14 am CDT