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Junior football manager Francis Breen collapses in front of team
10:29am Monday 2nd December 2013 in News
“HE DIED doing something he loved.”
Those were the words of the distraught family of a youth football team coach who collapsed and died on the touchline as he prepared to give a team talk to children.
Francis Breen had called over his team of under 9s at half-time when he suffered a suspected heart attack.
Youngsters were led away while desperate attempts were made to save the father-of-two’s life.
His devastated family last night told of a much-loved father and husband who “always had a smile on his face”.
The 59-year-old, of Charles Knott Gardens in Banister Park, Southampton, known to friends as Fran, had called the youngsters over for a half-time team talk when he complained of pain in his left arm, held his chest, then collapsed.
He had been coaching the Southampton-based Mighty Athletes Under 9s boys team in their Testway Youth League fixture against Bishop’s Waltham Dynamos at the village pitches in Priory Park on Saturday morning.
A parent of one of the Bishop’s Waltham players, who works at a hospital, carried out CPR until the first responders arrived.
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance helicopter was dispatched at 9.55am, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The match was abandoned.
Bishop’s Waltham Dynamos youth team manager David O’Loughnane said: “We rang the ambulance as soon as it happened and the first aid responder was there within four minutes. The paramedic stepping in and helping gave him the best chance that he could have had.
“It’s very sad.”
Born in Plymouth, Mr Breen grew up in Hythe because his father worked at Fawley, but moved to London before moving back to Southampton in 1990.
He recovered from a stroke ten years ago but was taking tablets for high blood pressure.
He had been playing football only days before and had said his goodbyes that morning as normal.
Daughter Patricia, 24, who works in conveyance at Moore Blatch in Southampton, was called and told her father had collapsed and later that he did not have a pulse.
Son Jonathan, 23, raced to the park, but his father had already passed away.
Patricia told how she would have been at the match with her dad but for a Christmas party in London.
“I was just really saddened by the fact that although there were lots of people there he didn’t die with any of us,” said a tearful Patricia.
“I just can’t believe it, it doesn’t feel real.”
Jonathan said: “He died doing something he loved.”
The former St Mary’s College pupil was set to retire when he turned 60 in February and wife of 26 years Jasmine, 57, said only two days before he had talked about taking his family to France to celebrate.
The life-long Saints fan was passionate about football and enjoyed sports and board games.
He first got involved in coaching when his children were at school and went on to coach a number of Southampton youth teams.
The semi-retired civil servant worked in London, but had helped his daughter Patricia set up the Mighty Athletes football club last year.
It aimed to get underprivileged children into football and gave free sessions in schools to inspire youngsters.
A minute’s silence took place at a match yesterday and a silence will be held at around 50 matches in the Testway Youth Football league this Saturday in Mr Breen’s honour.
Jonathan, who works in finance at King Edward VI School, said: “He loved working with children, he had a passion for it.
“He wanted to bring these kids out of these under-privileged areas and give them something to go for.
“He was a thought-provoking man who always had a smile on his face.
“He was always there for you.”
Mrs Breen said: “He was a good husband – he would be with me when I needed him. He was very funny.”
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