Belgian footballer Gregory Mertens has died aged 24, three days after suffering a heart attack while playing for Lokeren’s reserves.
Mertens collapsed 20 minutes into a game against Genk reserves on Monday. He received treatment on the pitch before being placed in an induced coma in hospital.
Lokeren said in a statement: “Today something happened that no one could ever suspect or dare. Much too soon, we say goodbye to Gregory Mertens.
“Everyone in and around the club breathes football. But suddenly something happens when we realise that football is just football. Today is such a time.”
Martens is the second Belgian youth prospect to have died in less than three month, following the loss of 20-year-old Junior Malanda of German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in a car crash in January.
Mertens began his career at hometown club Anderlecht in 2004 but moved to Lokeren in January last year from Cercle Bruges.
He made 15 league appearances for Lokeren this season, including an Europa league game against Hull City in August.
Mertens made seven appearances for Belgium’s under-21 side.
The club statement continued: “The medical staff has done everything to save Gregory, but they finally had to acknowledge their impotence. Today, at 15:30 BST, Gregory died. The family has been able to say goodbye.
“Gregory had only been at the club for one-and-a-half years, but in that short time his quiet modesty showed himself to be an indispensable person. Now we will have to learn to live with the loss.
“We realise that these are incredibly difficult moments for Gregory’s family. We already offer them our sincere condolences. The club remains in contact with them and will them assist them wherever possible.
“Gregory, we will miss you!”