So far, we might have heard much about famous footballers, young talents, top soccer players of all time, and so on, yet we don’t recall much about famous dead soccer players some of whom even experienced a tragic death. This post is dedicated to their loving memory.
Everyone dies one day, but the following footballers we are going to let you know about are among those who experienced a tragic death; death from suicide or death from murder.
In fact, not all of them. Some of'em haved died on the pitch due to heart failure, fatal blows or other effects. Covering all dead footballers in a single post may be out of your patience, however, as mentioned above, this post is dedicated to the loving memeory of some of the most famous of them.
That's a fact, too. They are not among us anymore, but their memory will always remain with us and with football fans, especiall older ones.
The death of Colombian star, Andres Escobar, was shocking news to the football world in 1994. Before his death, Escobar had played for Colombia in 51 matches. Everything started from the own goal he scored in World Cup 1994: In a match against USA while trying to cut off a pass, the defender netted an own goal that led to USA’s win.
Upon returning to Columbia, despite several warnings not to, Escobar visited two bars and met up with his friends. After they split up around 3 a.m. midnight, Escobar got a visit from three men and a woman in the parking lot.
An argument concerning his own goal ensued, and the 27-year-old defender insisted that the own goal had been a mistake, however, two of the men, pulled out their guns and shot him. He was shot six times and left to bleed out in the parking lot, and the men fled away in a truck.
Escobar’s funeral attended by over 120,000 people only means that he is one of the most popular dead soccer players in the world. After his murder, several players in the Colombian national team left the team for ever with some of them even quitting the whole game altogether.
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A match-winner in every sense of the phrase, Davie Cooper stunned his fans by his death only at the age of 39 in 1995. Many believed he was the most gifted Scottish player of all time along with Denis Law, Jim Baxter and Kenny Dalglish. When ball was at his feet, no-one knew what to expect. He ran at defenders, showed them a glimpse of the ball, pulled it back, feinted and then went often past several players.
The former Rangers and Scotland winger, who had appeared 22 times for the Scotland national team, died in a Glasgow hospital after a brain hemorrhage. Cooper was to retire at the end of the season, but he collapsed unexpectedly at Clyde's Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld while he was filming a coaching video.
“Scotland has lost a national treasure,” said the Celtic manager, Tommy Burns, in honor of his death, and the Rangers striker, Ally McCoist, also said: “We feel we have lost a brother. He will always be with this club.”
Marc-Vivien Foe’s death in 2003 was one of the greatest tragedies seen on the soccer pitch at the time. The midfielder was playing for his country against Colombia at France’s Stade de Gerland in the Confederations Cup semi-finals when he suddenly fell on the ground in the 72nd minute.
His team’s medics tried hard for 45 minutes to save his life by giving him oxygen and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation off the field, but all in vain. Although he was still alive after arriving at Gerland’s medical center, he died shortly afterward. He's indeed among the most famous dead footballers in history.
Foe’s first autopsy could not determine the exact cause of death, but a second one revealed that he had died of natural causes. “He was suffering from a cardiomyopathy hypertrophia [abnormally enlarged] left ventricle, something that is almost untraceable without carrying out an extensive examination,” Public prosecutor Xavier Richaud said.
Known for his generosity off the field, Foe funded a soccer academy for boys and girls in Yaounde. Harry Redknapp, who brought him to West Ham in 1999, once said about him: “I don't think he ever made an enemy in his life.”
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Gary Speed, one of the most famous and inspirational footballers of his time who was mostly known for his powerful headers throughout his career was found dead in the garage of his house in Cheshire on November 27, 2011 by his wife, Louise.
The cause of death was announced self-suspension, although the coroner said: "the evidence does not sufficiently determine whether this was intentional or accidental."
Died at the age of 42, Speed captained the Wales national soccer team before becoming Sheffield United’s manager in 2010/11 season. His primary role as a player was left-attacking-midfielder, but he also played as central-midfielder and left-back.
He was the most capped outfield player for Wales with 85 appearances between 1990 and 2004, and also held the record for the most appearances in the Premier League at 535, until it was surpassed by David James. He's indeed among the most famous dead footballers of all time and among those who experienced a tragic death.
With such records he is indeed among the most famous dead football players in history. His former Wales teammate, Ryan Giggs, once said about him: “He was a room-mate of mine. He was just a very intelligent man, the ultimate professional, a brilliant player and mostly a great leader.”
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22 at the time of his death, Antonio Puerta is another famous dead football player who played as a wing-back both for his club team, Sevilla, and Spain national team during his life. In the 35th minute of a match against Getafe at Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, Puerta collapsed while heading back toward his own goal.
He lost consciousness, but again he could walk off the pitch after being attended to by Sevilla’s medical staff. However, he collapsed again in the changing rooms and was given cardiac resuscitation.
Puerta was taken to Virgen del Rocio hospital in Seville, where he finally passed at 14:30 that day due to post-anoxic encephalopathy and a multiple failure of his organs caused by the prolonged cardiac arrest as stated by the medical staff at the hospital.
Puerta will always be remembered for the brilliant goal he netted in UEFA Cup 2005/06 semi-final against Schalke 04 with his left foot in the 100th minute that led to Sevilla’s 1-0 win and qualified them for the final where they won Middlesbrough 4-0 and earned their fifth title only in fifteen months.
“Today is one of the saddest days in the history of Sevilla Football Club. That diamond left foot of Antonio Puerta’s has left us, that left foot that changed our lives has left us.” said Sevilla president, Jose Maria del Nido, to reporters.
Puerta's funeral was held within 48 hours from his death with people from all across Spain who had travelled to Sevilla to take part in the event. Puerta's coffin was laid in the stadium for thousands of people who had waited for hours to pay their homage. As his body was taken to its final resting place, it appeared as if the entire city lined the streets in his respect.
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September 5, 1931, Celtic faces Rangers in front of 80,000 fans at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow. In the second half, Sam English of Rangers raced toward Celtic’s goal, looking certain to score.
John Thompson dived at his feet, trying to disrupt his run, but his head collided so hard with English’s knee that he fell immediately unconscious on the ground. Thompson fractured his skull in the incident and was taken to Victoria Infirmary.
There, Dr. Norman Davidson carried out an emergency operation on Thomspon to relieve the pressure caused by the swelling in his brain, but the operation was not successful. Thompson finally died that day at 9:25 at the age of 22.
Over 40,000 people attended his funeral in Cardenden with many walking 55 miles to the Fife village. Even at the start of the 21st century Thomson's grave in Bowhill, Fife, remains a place of pilgrimage for Celtic fans. Concerning the time of his death, John Thompson, could be considered one of the famous dead footballers in the history of football.
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January 25, 2004, Benfica vs Vitoria de Guimaraes, Injury time: Benfica’s Feher, who was substituted in the 60th minute, received a yellow card in the stoppage time for time wasting.
The 24-year-old striker smiled at the referee’s decision and went back to his post, but suddenly in a matter of seconds he bent over with his hands on his knees and fell backwards. His teammates rushed to his side, with one lifting him up to prevent him from swallowing his tongue.
The match was stopped for 15 minutes as Benfica’s medical staff attended Feher. Several of Benfica’s players dropped to their knees and prayed with tears in their eyes. Even some club personnel, including the coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, were crying.
Partly revived, Feher was stretchered off the pitch and taken to a nearby hospital. As they were taking him to the ambulance, Benfica’s center-back, Argel, opened the ambulance door and shouted: “Don’t let him die.”
But to all’s surprise, Feher was pronounced dead about 3 hours later, leaving his club members and fans in shock. The cause of his death was announced cardiac arrhythmia caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a heart muscles disease.
Benfica’s next few matches were postponed, and the club retired the number-29 shirt in Feher’s honor. Also, in the following season, when Benfica won the league title, Feher’s parents were presented with the League Championship medal to honor the striker’s memory. Maybe as one of the most popular dead football players in the world?
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A Scottish professional footballer who played as a midfielder for Motherwell, Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday during his career, Phil O’Donnel also won PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award twice.
He was a key player in the Scottish Cup final between Motherwell and Dundee United who contributed to his team 4-3 victory by his diving header. Former Scottish professional footballer, Ally McCoist, commenting on the match, described him as being “brave as a lion”.
On December 29, 2007, again captain O’Donnel appeared in a match against Dundee United, this time not to see the end of the match: As he was about to be substituted, he collapsed on the pitch with no reason, leaving all his teammates in astonishment what had really happened.
O’Donnel received medical treatment from both teams’ medical staff on the pitch before he was taken to Wishaw General Hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after his team’s 5-3 victory against Dundee United. "The post-mortem revealed that Phil - 35 at the time of his death - had suffered left ventricular failure of the heart," Dr. Robert Liddle, Motherwell's doctor, announced later.
In honor of O’Donnel’s memory, the Main Stand at Fir Park was renamed The Phil O’Donnel Stand by Motherwell. Phil’s teammates also paid their own tributes by having his signature embroidered on their strips for the remainder of the 2007-08 season.
One of the famous dead football players with a tragic story of suicide: Hannover 96 goalkeeper, Robert Enke, took his own life in 2009 after six years of suffering from depression. Although Robert remained with the Bundesliga side, Hannover 96, for the majority of his career, he also played for topflight clubs such as Benfica and Barcelona.
Robert also appeared eight times for the German national team and was part of the squad who finished as runners-up in Euro 2008. Had it not been for Victor Valdes’ brilliant appearances for Barcelona, he could have maintained his position as the team’s first-squad goalkeeper, but, it did not happen.
Enke was sold to Turkey’s Fernerbahce and later to Tenerife before he made his return to his homeland to play for Hannover 96. The 32-year-old goalkeeper took his own life on November 10, 2009 by standing in front of a passing express train at a level crossing in Eilvese, Neustadt am Rübenberge. Police confirmed his suicide and found a suicide note, too, but never made its details public.
Enke’s funeral was attended by more than 40,000 people, and his teammates displayed the number one in a circle on the breast of their jerseys for the rest of the 2009-10 Bundesliga season as a mark of respect to him. Perhaps among the most famous dead soccer players, Robert Enke experienced one of the most tragic deaths in the history of football.
Another famous dead footballer who played as a right-back and right-midfielder, Fernando Ricksen, earned a number of trophies during his 19-year career including two Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish cups, and three Scottish league cups with Glasgow Rangers.
He also won two Eerste Divise - the second-highest tier of football in Netherlands - titles with Fortuna Sittard and Alkmaar Zaanstreek before he joined Rangers in 2000. Ricksen was elected to Rangers' Hall of Fame in 2014 and appeared 12 times for the Netherlands national team between 2000 and 2003.
Fernando Ricksen died on September 18, 2019 at the age of 43, six years after he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease – a disease where neurons send electric signals into muscles disrupting their normal function.
Noteworthy to mention is that, the great physicist, Stephen Hopkins, also suffered from a type of the same disease. His funeral was held at Wellington Church in Glasgow on 25 September with officials from Glasgow Rangers and Celtic attending the ceremony, after which he was cremated in private.
Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, simply known as Socrates, but nicknamed “Dr. Socrates” - for his medical degree and political awareness, “Golden Feet” and “Big Skinny” not only was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players in March 2004 by the everlasting legend of football, Pele, but also by the World Soccer magazine in its “100 best footballers in history” list.
Socrates is also in the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame and is considered one of the greatest midfielders ever in football history. He also won the title of South American Footballer of the Year in 1983.
Socrates played for Brazilian national team in two World Cups, in one of which – World Cup 1982 – he captained the Brazilian team, playing alongside other legends like Zico, Falcao, and Eder. One month before his death, Socrates had suffered gastrointestinal bleeding caused by cirrhosis of the liver – a condition that Socrates’ addiction to alcohol and cigarettes had contributed to.
He was discharged from the hospital nine days later, but again, the Brazilian legend was hospitalized on December 1, 2011 due to food poisoning which developed to septic shock and led to his death on December 4, 2011 at the age of 57.
Brazilian president at the time, Dilma Rousseff, said about Socrates: “Brazil has lost one of its most cherished sons. On the field, with his talent and sophisticated touches, he was a genius. Off the field... he was active politically, concerned with his people and his country.”
The Italian legend, Paulo Rossi, paid tribute to his former opponent, saying: “It's a piece of our history that's broken off and gone away. Socrates seemed like a player from another era. You couldn't place him in any category - on the pitch and even more so off it.”
Maybe Socrates, already a legend in football history, comes at the top of the list when it comes to famous dead football players.
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One of the famous dead football players and a professional midfielder at his own time reputed for being determined and resilient with a keen eye for a pass, Cheik Tiote made his professional debut with the Belgian side, Anderlecht, in 2005 but he actually spent most of his club career at the Premier League club, Newcastle United, playing 156 games for the club between 2010 and 2017.
Before joining Newcastle, he went on a loan to the Dutch club, Roda JC, and then joined FC Twente in 2008, where he won the Eredivise title in his second season with the club.
In his International career, Cheik Tiote won Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 with the Ivory Coast national football team and also presented his country in two FIFA Word Cups. In February 2017, Tiote joined Beijing Enterprises - a China League One club - where he died in a training session due to cardiac arrest at the age of 30.
Soon after his death, his teammates at Newcastle paid their tributes through social media. A statement on Newcastle official website also read: “We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of Cheick Tiote at the age of just 30.”
Newcastle manager at the time, Rafa Benitez, said about him: “In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and above all, a great man. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time.”
Tiote's memorial service was held in Beijing and attended by his Beijing Enterprises teammates and Papiss Cissé, a teammate of Tiote at Newcastle who had played with him. Two days later his body was flown back to the Ivory Coast where it was given a military funeral, attended by his national teammates and the prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly.
Died on November 25, 2020, at the age of 60 in Buenos Aires due to a cardiac arrest, Diego Maradona is an Argentinian legendary footballer as big as legends like Pele and Johan Cryuff. He’s indeed the best footballer Argentina has ever had alongside the top Argentinian footballer, Lionel Messi. In fact, there is a debate if Messi is the best Argentinian footballer ever or Maradona. Some believe that’s Messi and some Maradona and yet some both. Whatever people believe, Maradona was and is, by no doubt, one of the legendary footballers Argentina has ever had.
And what caused Maradona’s death? They say that was greatly related to his lifestyle. Unfortunately Maradona was addicted to drugs and alcohol and even quitted them once in 2007 but that didn’t change things a lot. Not only Maradona struggled with his alcohol and drug addiction but also with his weight-gain that actually had become a problem for him in the final years of his career to the extent that even he was allowed to use drugs in order to prevent weight gain. They also say that Maradona had a poor diet and a number of problems in his personal life that actually contributed to his poor health.
Died on December 9, 2020, at the age of 64, Paolo Rossi was one of the top Italian footballers at his own time. During his footballing career Paolo Rossi won 6 club trophies with Juventus and was named Serie A top goalscorer in 1977-78 season with 24 goals scored in the top Italian league. He is one of few Italian footballers to have won Ballon D'Or - actually in 1982. He was also named on FIFA 100 list by the Brazilian legend, Pele, and was inducted into Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
However what is Rossi is best known for is actually the part he played in Italy’s win against West Germany which actually earned them 1982 World Cup. He also scored a hat trick against Brazil in that tournament. The cause of Rossi’s death is not yet clearly determined, but it has been confirmed that he has died of a long illness.