The father of a 14-year-old footballer who died when he collided with another player while trying to save a goal has said his son “went out doing what he loved”.
Goalkeeper Luca Campanaro, who played for Bedgrove Dynamos FC, suffered a fatal brain injury in the “freak accident” during an under-15s away match against Harefield United in west London on Sunday.
His father Americo Campanaro said his son’s passion was football, and added: “My boy went doing what he loved. I would rather he went out that way than being knocked down by a bus.”
He explained his son, from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, had gone into a sliding tackle and suffered an impact to his head.
Mr Campanaro, who coached the team and witnessed the accident, said: “It was a one-on-one challenge, their last player against Luca, he has come running out of the goal to make the challenge, gone in for a sliding challenge, he has slid and basically tackled the boy who has carried on sliding.
“From what we can make out, his leg or knee continued and smacked Luca right in the side of the head or neck.
“It was a fair challenge, there was nothing either of them could have done about it.
“Doctors have said it’s the same as being in a head-on collision in a car crash.
“It’s knocked him unconscious and he did not regain consciousness, the impact caused severe brain damage.
“He went to sit up and literally went straight back down and that’s when I knew something was wrong and I went on to the pitch and started the worst three days of my life.”
Mr Campanaro said his son’s organs were donated and if successful had saved four lives.
He said: “There’s part of my boy that lives on in the country or around the world, the boy would have done anything for anyone and his last gift has been to carry on doing that.”
Describing his son, who was a fan of Tottenham Hotspur and Italian teams Juventus and Foggia, Mr Campanaro said: “He was a typical teenager, he could be moody but he was an absolutely fantastic son and friend. He was a gentle giant.
“Football was his life, he aspired to try to make it if he could but he was realistic at how hard it was to become a professional and had other ideas as well.”
Mr Campanaro, an area sales manager for a lighting company, said he does not believe his son’s death should be an argument for restricting how people play football to prevent injuries, but said the family wishes to support medical research into brain injuries.
A crowdfunding page set up to support Luca’s family has reached more than £20,000, with some of the donations going to the London Air Ambulance.