Patrick Ekeng
Cameroonian international Patrick Ekeng collapsed shortly after coming on as a substitute for his Romanian club Dinamo BucharestFacebook/Dinamo Bucharest

Tributes have poured in for a Cameroonian international footballer who collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack, while playing for a top Romanian club on live TV. Patrick Ekeng fell to the floor in the 70th minute of the 3-3 draw between his Dinamo Bucharest side and Viitorul Constanta.

The 26-year-old midfielder had only come on as a substitute eight minutes earlier. Taken off the pitch in an ambulance he was rushed to hospital but was later pronounced dead. He leaves a wife and daughter behind.

The Romanian news outlet Digisport reported there was no resuscitation equipment in the ambulance and paramedics could only use heart massage techniques to try and save his life. IB Times UK was unable to independently verify this.

A spokesman for the Floreasca Emergency Hospital, Cristian Pandrea, said doctors had tried for an hour to resuscitate the midfielder but failed. He added that the cause of death was not known.

Calling his death "a tragedy", the Cameroonian Football Association's head of marketing Laurence Fotso said his country's football family was in mourning.

"RIP Ekeng Ekeng," he said. "RIP indomitable Lion," he said, referring to the team's nickname.

Ekeng's death appears similar to that of another Cameroonian international, Marc Vivien Foe, who collapsed in the 73rd minute of 2003's Confederations Cup semi-final against Colombia in the Stade de Gerland, in the French city of Lyon.

The powerful, former West Ham and Manchester City midfielder was jogging along innocuously when he suddenly collapsed in the centre circle. After the 28-year-old was carried a stretcher to the bowels of the stadium, attempts to restart his heart failed and the man known to his team-mates as 'Marco' was pronounced dead.

While less prolific on the international stage, Ekeng made his debut in January 2015 against the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was also included in Cameroon's squad for that year's African Cup of Nations but he did not make it onto the pitch during the tournament as the team were knocked out in the group stages.

It was the culmination of a steady rise for the player who began his career at his hometown club in Cameroon, Canon Yaounde. From there, he moved to Le Mans in France making 35 league appearances for the club.

Most of his time at the club was spent on loan with the lower league French club Rodez, before he moved to the Swiss club Lausanne. Within a year, he moved to La Liga side Cordoba, but after they were relegated to Spain's second tier, he once again moved on to join Dinamo Bucharest, who are currently fourth in the Romanian league.

"On behalf of all of Dinamo, sincere condolences to the bereaved family," Dinamo said on the club's official Facebook page. "God rest his soul."

Cordoba also paid tribute to the player on their Twitter account.

"There are no words to express our sorrow at the death of Patrick Ekeng," they said. "We mourn your loss. We will never forget you friend. RIP."

Ekeng's Cameroonian teammate and former Queens Park Rangers midfielder Stephane Mbia also posted a picture of the two together, writing: "Our Cameroon football family has lost a brother. I cannot believe this. Condolences to his family. RIP Patrick Ekeng."

Manchester United star Anthony Martial also posted his condolences, while Arsenal left-back Hector Bellerin posted a picture of Ekeng on his Twitter page, and called for more to be done in order to protect players when it comes to identifying potentially dangerous heart problems among athletes.

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