‘Football in heaven’: Chinese fans mourn Honduran Martinez, 37 (Image courtesy: @SJEarthquakes/twitter)
Heart-broken Chinese football fans placed beer, scarves and candles outside Beijing Guoan’s stadium in a fast-growing memorial to former forward Walter Martinez, who has died aged 37. The Honduras international suffered a suspected heart attack on Monday in New York, Chinese Super League (CSL) side Guoan said, plunging the club and its supporters into mourning.
Martinez, whose career was stymied by injuries, started out in his native Honduras before stints with Beijing in 2007-2008 and 2010-2012. He later had a spell in Major League Soccer with San Jose Earthquakes. He retired from football in 2016.
The diminutive forward won 49 caps for Honduras, scoring 12 goals, and played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. “Beijing Guoan Football Club, on behalf of Guoan fans, would like to express most sincere condolences to the family of Martinez,” the club said in a statement.
“We hope there is football in heaven. Beijing will always miss you!” Grieving Beijing supporters also placed flowers and liquor at the makeshift memorial to Martinez outside the Workers’ Stadium in the Chinese capital.
On the Twitter-like Weibo, fans described what made Martinez so popular, saying how he cried after his last appearance for the capital club and donated money to earthquake victims. Several posted photographs of themselves with the player.