Thousands pay homage to Puerta

Thousands of people paid homage overnight to Sevilla defender Antonio Puerta who died after suffering a heart attack during the club's opening match of the Spanish league on Saturday.

The 22-year-old, who made his national team debut last season, died in hospital on Tuesday and his body was moved to Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan stadium where a temporary mortuary was set up to allow fans to pay their respects.

"Puerta, friend, Seville is with you," supporters of Sevilla and its cross-town rivals Betis Seville chanted as the body was moved from the hopsital to the stadium.

Puerta will be buried at a cemetary in Seville in southwestern Spain at 2pm (1200 GMT), the club said.

Thousands of fans from both clubs flocked to the stadium throughout the night to leave football scarves, candles and dozens of flower arrangements near Puerta's body.

The body of the player was draped with the flag of the club, which was founded in 1905. At his side were the recent trophies won by the club, including the UEFA Cup won last season.

The Sevilla squad returned from Athens, where they had been set to play a Champions League return leg against AEK Athens on Tuesday night, and immediately went to the stadium, arriving at around 2:35am (0035 GMT).

Accompanied by Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido and the club's coach Juande Ramos, the squad was greeted with applause by some 20,000 supporters with cries of "Sevilla! Sevilla! Sevilla!".

The Champions League match has now been scheduled for Monday although the UEFA Cup champions' Super Cup match against Champions League winners AC Milan, scheduled for Friday, has been maintained.

Spain's sports newspapers also paid homage to Puerta.

"Antonio Puerta, the injustice of dying at the age of 22. Why?" wrote sports daily Marca in its headline.