A 13-year-old boy died after collapsing during a soccer game Saturday, Aug. 26, at Westminster High School.
The incident happened around 10:20 a.m. when Felipe Andres De La Cruz of Hacienda Heights and his team, Strikers FC North, were playing in the Players Cup Tournament against SDA Slammers.
Felipe, who was playing right back, raised his hand to come out of the game in the second half, saying he was feeling tired, Strikers FC North coach Ron Esparza said by phone Sunday.
He was substituted and sat on the bench, but the boy collapsed within about 30 seconds, said Mike Ornelas, who also coaches the team.
There were no signs or warnings, the coaches said.
“He was having a stellar game,” Ornelas said. “He was getting forward in the attack and he was defending very well.”
Esparza’s wife and a physician who happened to be at the event performed CPR on Felipe, Esparza said, but the boy remained unconscious. Paramedics arrived, and Felipe was taken to Orange Coast Memorial Hospital in Fountain Valley, where he was pronounced dead.
“As a coach, you worry that things like this (may) happen, but you never expect it to happen,” Esparza said.
Felipe’s family is waiting for the autopsy result to find out the cause of his death. Felipe’s father said Sunday the boy had never experienced any heart problems.
Felipe, an eighth grader at Newton Middle School in Hacienda Heights, was the only player on Strikers FC North who lived outside Orange County. The team usually practices twice a week in Orange and plays games in Orange County.
Still, the boy never missed twice-a-week practices in Orange, commuting nearly an hour, Esparza said.
“It’s special as a coach that he showed such dedication and he worked so hard to be the best player he could be and he was a great example for other kids on the team,” Esparza said.
The game on Saturday was stopped after Felipe collapsed, and the entire Strikers FC North team — including players, coaches and parents — rushed to the hospital. There, Felipe’s parents asked the team to continue playing in the tournament Sunday.
“He would have wanted the team to move on,” said Felipe’s father, who has the same first and last names as his son.The Strikers FC North gather for a quick pre-game word in memory of Felipe De La Cruz who collapsed on the field and died while playing soccer on Saturday at Westminster High School. (Photo courtesy of Ron Esparza)
Before Sunday’s game against Crescenta Valley SC, Strikers FC North held a minute of silence. Both teams played the beginning of the game with 10 players — instead of 11 — to honor Felipe and played the game with his soccer ball.
“We are so grateful for the entire soccer community that came out to support Felipe,” Esparza said. “So many teams came out to support us today.”
The older Felipe De La Cruz said his son was a straight A student who loved math and science. The boy would tell his mother he would buy a nice home for her, his father said.
“He was a very happy child,” the father said. “He was very playful, enjoyed playing with cousins. … smiling all the time. He had a very good sense of humor.”