It has become a ritual. Every game at Sevilla's stadium, Ramon Sanchez -Pizjuan, the crowd starts to applause and sing, no matter what's going on on the pitch. It's in the 16th minute. They're not crazy: they are just paying tribute to Antonio Puerta. A talented winger that died in a hospital, just a few days after he collapsed in front of the eyes of all the spectators. It was a tragedy that hit all Spanish society.
Puerta was a rising star. He was a classy left winger that helped Sevilla to win two UEFA Cups and a European Super Cup against FC Barcelona. He was also capped for Spain's National team. He had a bright future and some big clubs, like Real Madrid and Barça, were interested in him. But, in the first game of the 2007/08 season against Getafe, it all ended dramatically.
Puerta had several heart failures that drove him to death. The first one was when he was over the pitch. The medical assistance was quick and the player even woke up and walked to the dressing room by his own. But that was a mirage. Once there, he suffered another attack and lost definitely the consciousness. After a few days struggling, he passed away.
The drama was bigger, yet: Puerta's wife was pregnant. And his first son, Aitor, was expected to be born only two months after the tragedy. Finally, He came to the world on October the 22st.
Today is the fifth anniversary of Puerta's death. And He's never been forgotten. Sevilla has a street with his name and Sevilla FC built a statue of Puerta at the entrance of their practicing fields. Aitor and his mother were at the unveiling ceremony of the monument on last April.
Sevilla still misses Puerta. Since he passed away, the squad just only won a Spanish Cup and failed to be amongst the best teams of the Continent, like they were before the tragedy.
Puerta's death wasn't the last that suffered Spanish football over the last years. Espanyol's Dani Jarque also had a sudden death when he was training in Firenze, Italy, in preseason. And just two months ago, Betis defender Miki Roque died by a bone cancer.
If you are planning to watch Sevilla's next game at their stadium, against Real Madrid, pay attention when the 16th minute comes. You'll hear a great ovation. Now, you know why. It's for Puerta, the missed idol.