BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The Romanian Football Federation (FRF) has postponed all football this weekend following the death of Dinamo Bucharest and Cameroon midfielder Patrick Ekeng on Friday.
Ekeng, 26, collapsed on the field after suffering a suspected heart attack shortly after coming on as a 62nd-minute substitute during a league match against Viitorul Constanta and was pronounced dead two hours after the incident.
The tragedy created an outpouring of sorrow and emotion in Romania on Saturday while FIFA President Gianni Infantino led the heartfelt tributes to the African player, talking of how “incredibly sad” he felt.
The FRF said in a statement on Saturday that all matches in the top three divisions, the junior championship, futsal (indoor football) and women’s games that were scheduled to take place between May 7 and 9 were postponed.
The Romanian Cup final between Dinamo and CFR Cluj, which was due to be played on Tuesday, was also postponed until May 17.
Local media said police have begun an investigation into Ekeng’s death while hospital officials claimed that he had not received adequate first aid treatment at the ground, which was denied by the club’s doctor.
“He was brought to us in cardiopulmonary arrest at the emergency room, in an ambulance, without resuscitation measures as far as we know,” doctor Cristian Pandrea of the Floreasca emergency hospital told reporters.
“We started resuscitation measures that lasted approximately one hour and 30 minutes. These measures were, unfortunately, without result.”
Ekeng was placed in an ambulance less than three minutes after collapsing and Dinamo’s club doctor Liviu Batineanu said he performed cardiac massage.
“The first thing you do is to clear out the air passage and perform cardiac massage,” Batineanu said.
On Saturday, Dinamo fans unveiled a huge banner outside the club stadium that read “An empty place in our hearts”.
Ekeng, capped twice by Cameroon, had also played for Le Mans in France, as well as Swiss club Lausanne and Spain’s Cordoba.
Ekeng joined 18-times Romanian champions Dinamo as a free agent in January and scored his only goal in their 2-2 draw against Steaua Bucharest in the Romanian Cup semi-final’s second leg in April.
Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe also died after collapsing on the pitch, during a Confederations Cup match in 2003 against Colombia in France.
”I‘m incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Patrick Ekeng,“ Infantino said. ”At moments like this, words seem insufficient. Messages I’ve read online from team mates, his club in Romania, and former teams, show just how highly Patrick was regarded.
“I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family and friends, and particularly to the staff, players and fans of Dinamo Bucharest, and the Cameroon national team. My thoughts are with everyone at this time.”
On Saturday, thousands of Romanians put aside their club loyalties to pay their own tributes.
Players and coaches of Dinamo’s bitter Bucharest rivals, Steaua and Rapid, arrived at the club stadium to light candles in his memory.
“It’s an incredible tragedy but we have to move ahead,” said Steaua coach Laurentiu Reghecampf on the day his club marked the 30th anniversary of their famous European Cup triumph.
Ekeng’s former club Cordoba said on Twitter: “There are no words to express our sorrow for the death of Patrick Ekeng.”
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Luiza Ilie; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Toby Davis