‘His spirit continues’: Antonio Loiacono’s family pay tribute to

The family of a young footballer who died following a tackle in a local football match have thanked the community for the “overwhelming support” they have received from “people across the State and even around the world”.

Antonio Loiacono died after he was knocked out while representing Birdwood Football Club’s A-Grade side during the opening match of the Hills Football League season against Gumeracha on Saturday.

The 20-year-old’s family have now issued a statement to express their heartbreak and pay tribute to the keen footballers.

“Antonio was a larrikin who had a gift for bringing people together, young and old, and brought light and life into every room,” the family said in a statement.

“We feel so blessed that his spirit continues to unite the community, as he always did in life.

“On behalf of Antonio’s family, we’d like to thank everyone who has sent us messages of love and support. We humbly request privacy for the family as we make arrangements for Antonio’s funeral, where we will celebrate his life and the life he gave to others.”

The family also spoke of Antonio’s love of football and “comradery of the players, their families, and the local country teams”.

“Antonio started playing Auskick when he was just four years old, and we are so thankful for the love and support we’ve received from the football community over the past few days,” they said.

Antonio had wanted to be an organ donor and his family said they took comfort in knowing “in his death, others were given the gift of life”.

After he collapsed Antonio was immediately treated by medical staff at Gumeracha Oval, 35km north-east of Adelaide, before he was flown to Royal Adelaide Hospital just before 8pm.

According to The Advertiser, Loiacono’s heart stopped for about 30 minutes after the collision. He was eventually revived and put on life support when he reached the hospital.

The decision to take the young footballer off life support was made about 24 hours later, with his family and girlfriend surrounding his bedside.

Jack Loiacono took to Facebook on Monday morning with a heartbreaking message to confirm the tragic loss.

“Antonio, my other half, my best friend and the person I look up to most. Words can’t describe the pain we all feel you’re loved by so many. You will always be in my heart and I’ll talk to you everyday,” he wrote.

“Your aura was so special and would put a smile on anyone’s face around him. You are the most caring thoughtful person I’ve come across and always looked out for me, I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done and helped me through you’re my guidance and always will be.

“Everything I do from this day forward is for you I love you so so much tones, thinking about you.”

The solemn message was shared with more than 20 pictures and videos of the pair.

As the South Australian football community grappled with the death several clubs from around the area shared their support and condolences for the young player.

“The BFNC would like to express our sincere condolences to Wendy, Sal, Jack and Allana and the extended family of Antonio Loiacono at this very difficult time,” a statement from Antonio’s Birdwood Football Club read.

“Antonio was only with our Club for a few months but his leadership and care for his new team will have a lasting impact. Rest in Peace Antonio”

The Great Southern Football League issued a statement after the incident, sharing its “sincere condolences” to those impacted.

“The Great Southern Football League forwards it sincere condolences to the family and friends of Birdwood Football Club player Antonio Loiacono,” a statement read.

“Community Football is what we live for and this is a truly sad time when a player is cut down by an unfortunate on field incident, no matter what level of the game.

“Our collective thoughts are with his family and the Birdwood Football Club at this time of unbelievable sadness.”

The Onkaparinga Valley Football Club said it was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy.

“The Committee, Members, players and friends of the Onka-Valley Football Club are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Antonio Loiacono from the Birdwood Football Club after an incident Saturday,” the statement read.

“Our thoughts are with Antonio’s family and friends and everyone from the Birdwood Football Club, and as a fellow Hills Football League Club we stand with you in this sad time.”

A GoFundMe page has also been set up with more than $21,000 raised to help support the family.

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