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Argentina suspends all professional soccer following player death

Argentina suspends all professional soccer matches this weekend after player death

The pitch will be silent in Argentina this weekend in honor of Emanuel Ortega, a 21-year-old fourth division soccer player who died after he was pushed into a concrete pillar by an opponent during a game last week.

Ortega, a forward for San Martin de Burzaco, was chasing a ball during a game against Juventud Unida on May 3 when he hit the pole holding up a fence just outside the boundary line. The push by an opponent, which caused him to lose his balance, was not believed to be intentional. Ortega died from his injuries Thursday.

Argentine Football Assn. President Luis Segura told the Associated Press the decision to forgo professional games this weekend "was agreed to by all leaders."

"One shouldn't play, out of respect for the magnitude of the tragedy," Segura said. "I don't think anyone is in the mood to think about a football match."

"The security measures are taken thinking about the fans, and the fence is so high so that they can't throw stones, but some things are more important," San Martin Manager Cristian Ferlauto said, according to The Independent.

Segura deflected questions about stadium safety.

"Today is not the time to think about taking [safety] measures," Segura said. "We'll see afterward. 

The Argentine national team has been tremendously successful at the international level with two World Cup victories (1978, 1986) and has made it to Cup final three times, including at last year's event in Brazil.

Soccer at the local level, where fanaticism often runs high, requires incredible security because of the widespread violence associated with the sport in Argentina.

In 2014, 15 deaths were attributed to soccer-related violence in the country, according to the BBC, including the December murder of Franco Nieto, a third division Argentine soccer player who was killed in front of his wife and child following a match, which was called 15 minutes early because of a brawl on the field.

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

10:30 a.m.: Adds further comments from Luis Segura

This story was originally published at 10:30 a.m.

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