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Tragedy: Gregory Mertens dies in hospital, three days after collapsing during a game

KSC Lokeren OV v Club Brugge - Belgium Jupiler League

KSC Lokeren OV v Club Brugge - Belgium Jupiler League

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On Thursday tragic news arrived that 24-year-old Belgian defender Gregory Mertens has died following heart failure during a match in Belgium on Monday.

Mertens collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest less than 20 minutes into a reserve game for Sporting Lokeren against Genk and has been in an induced coma in hospital since.

His condition deteriorated on Wednesday after several operations and the sad news that the young defender had passed away was confirmed by his club on Thursday.

In a statement on their Twiitter account, Lokeren said:

“With sadness we announce the loss of Gregory Mertens. We wish family and friends all the strength.”

Many superstars of the Belgian national team rallied around and sent messages of good will towards Mertens with the slogan "“Blijven vechten Gregory” which translates to “Keep fighting, Gregory” but the former Anderlecht academy product and Belgian U-21 international couldn’t recover from his heart failure.

Mertens’ death is unfortunately the latest in a number of cases where high-profile professional soccer players have suffered heart failure while playing the game as Marc Vivien-Foe and Christian Benitez have both passed away, while former Arsenal and Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba survived a heart attack on the pitch but has never played the game again.

Our thoughts go out to the Mertens family following their loss.

Follow @JPW_NBCSports