Davide Astori, the Italian defender for Serie A side Fiorentina passed away at the team hotel just hours before his side were due to take to the field against Udinese on Sunday. Later in the day, it was confirmed that the club captain had died of natural causes.
Astori suffered a "cardiac circulatory collapse" -- a type of heart attack -- Antonio de Nicolo, a Udine magistrate was quoted in Italian media as saying.
The magistrate added that it was "strange that such a thing happened without any warning symptoms in a profession which is so closely monitored".
Astori's body was taken to a hospital in Udine for an autopsy.
Tragic passing of a club captain
La Fiorentina profondamente sconvolta si trova costretta a comunicare che e' scomparso il suo capitano Davide Astori, colto da improvviso malore.— ACF Fiorentina (@acffiorentina) 4 March 2018
Per la terribile e delicata situazione, e soprattutto per rispetto della sua famiglia si fa appello alla sensibilità di tutti. pic.twitter.com/bFGnkReWEC
"Fiorentina are profoundly shaken and forced to announce that their captain Davide Astori has died. For this terrible and delicate situation, and above all out of respect for his family, we appeal to everyone's sensitivity.”
It was confirmed shortly after this news that the game between Udinese and Fiorentina would be suspended.
Serie A suspend weekend fixtures
A decision was made by the Italian league authorities to postpone all Serie A matchday 27 fixtures this weekend. The opening fixture between Genoa and Cagliari was about to begin when the news came through and players stopped their warm-ups on the pitch and could be seen heading for the changing room visibly distressed.
As well as this, the Italian federation has announced that all sporting events in the country will observe a minute's silence.