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Football mourns the death of Feher

Feher in full flight minutes before he collapses on the pitch
Feher in full flight minutes before he collapses on the pitch

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LISBON, Portugal (Reuters) -- Portugal soccer chiefs declared a day of mourning after the on-field death of Benfica's Hungarian international Miklos Feher.

The 24-year-old striker collapsed on Sunday during a league game against Vitoria Guimaraes -- the victim of an apparent heart attack.

Feher was the second international to die on the field of play in seven months after a heart condition killed Cameroon's Marc Vivien Foe at the Confederations Cup in France last June.

"This is a bad day for us," Gilberto Madail, chairman of the Portuguese Soccer Federation, told TSF radio. "Last night was a truly black night."

Feher collapsed on the rain-sodden pitch in injury time of the televised match with Benfica leading 1-0 having just scored through Fernando Aguiar.

However, after a four-and-a-half hour autopsy the causes of Feher's death were still not known and the prosecutor general's department said in a statement that: "Tissue was taken from him for additional examinations."

Sandor Berzi, general secretary of the Hungarian Federation (HFF) said from the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Malta on Monday: "We are very shocked, it's unbelievable,"

National coaches and officials of the teams in qualifying Group Eight for the 2006 World Cup are meeting on the Mediterranean island to draw up the fixtures schedule.

"Feher's death is a tragedy for football, especially for Hungary," Berzi said. "It's devastating to see a young player dying on a football pitch during a game.

"Two years ago, Pal Dardai, a Hungary international who plays for Hertha Berlin in Germany, lost his younger brother in similar circumstances. It's the second tragedy for our football in less than two years."

Final smile

Television showed repeated footage of Feher smiling at the referee after receiving a yellow card. He leaned over with his hands on his thighs, then slumped backwards onto the pitch.

Referee Olegario Benquerrenca blew the final whistle after consulting both captains as there was still a minute or so of injury time to be played. The result is expected to stand.

Feher was taken by ambulance to the Lady of the Olive Tree Hospital where medical personnel gave up efforts to revive him about one hour and 40 minutes.

Benfica and Guimaraes said in a joint statement that Feher had received appropriate medical treatment when he collapsed.

World governing body FIFA has drafted letters of condolences to Benfica and the Hungarian Football Association and spokesman Andreas Herren said: "We are deeply saddened by this new tragedy that has struck the game.

"We are obviously as keen as everybody else is to learn the medical causes."

Feher came to Portugal to play for Porto in the 1998/99 season from Hungary's Gyor Eto. He moved to Benfica in the 2002/03 season after loan spells at Salgueiros and Braga.

"When this happens to a 24-year-old player who is loved by his colleagues and by the fans, the consternation is total," Benfica spokesman Antonio Cunha Vaz said.

The last top Portuguese player to die during a match was Fernando Pascoal das Neves of Porto in December 1973. He collapsed in the 13th minute of the 13th game of the season.

Guimaraes is one of the 10 venues being used for this summer's Euro 2004 championship in Portugal.

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