MOTHERWELL, Scotland (AP) – The captain of a Scottish Premier League soccer team died Saturday, collapsing during a game just as he was about to leave the field for a substitute.

Phil O’Donnell, a 35-year-old midfielder for Motherwell, fell to the ground at Fir Park and was carried off on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital.

Motherwell said its medical staff and that of Dundee United believed O’Donnell had a seizure, but did not elaborate. Club chairman Bill Dickie said there will be an autopsy.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy for Phil’s family,” Motherwell owner John Boyle said in a statement. “Everyone at Motherwell is shocked to the core and we are sure that everyone involved in Scottish football will feel the same.

“Phil was not only an inspirational player for Motherwell and club captain, but was an inspirational person. All of us at Motherwell are thinking of his wife, Eileen, and their four children.”

O’Donnell collapsed before he could be replaced by substitute Marc Fitzpatrick. He was treated on the field for about five minutes and Fitzpatrick entered in the 78th minute.

O’Donnell’s nephew David Clarkson, who had scored twice for Motherwell, was substituted a few moments later because he was upset by what happened. Saturday’s game was played to completion, the teams apparently unaware of O’Donnell’s condition. Motherwell won 5-3.

“I don’t want to say anything more than how devastated everyone at the club is for his wife and his young children,” Motherwell manager Mark McGhee said. “That’s what we are all feeling tonight. Nothing else matters.”

O’Donnell started his career at Motherwell before stints with Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday.

He also played once for Scotland, entering as substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Switzerland in 1993. He scored for Motherwell in its 4-3 victory over Dundee United in the 1991 Scottish Cup final.

Former Scotland manager Craig Brown gave O’Donnell his only international appearance.

“I think everyone in the game will acknowledge what a wonderful player he was and an outstanding gentleman,” Brown told Sky Sports News. “And I would expect to have a minute’s applause at every ground in Scotland at the next fixture.”

O’Donnell’s death recalled that of Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed and died at the 2003 Confederations Cup in France. That prompted soccer’s ruling body to demand a general physical and thorough cardiovascular tests on all players leading to last year’s World Cup in Germany.

This past summer, Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta died after he collapsed on the field during a Spanish league game. He had a weak right ventricle, and his death was one of at least three in soccer in August.

Striker Chaswe Nsofwa died of heart failure while training in Israel. A player for the English team Walsall, 16-year-old Anton Reid, died after collapsing while training.

AP-ES-12-29-07 1652EST

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