“Several hours before the game my five-day-old daughter died because of complications during birth,” Naft Maysan stopper Alaa Ahmad told AFP.
Ahmad, 21, said he asked his family not to spread the information as he was desperate to play in the match Thursday in order to show off his capabilities against giants Al-Shorta, owned by the interior ministry.
“I took a lot on myself and did not tell my teammates or coach because I knew they would refuse to let me play,” he said.
Ahmad helped his underdog team to a 1-1 draw against their rivals but while other players began celebrating at the final whistle he said he was “hit by a bizarre sensation” and collapsed in tears.
News of Ahmad’s decision spread rapidly on social media and he was flooded with messages of support.
“It must be totally heartbreaking for him. May he find peace at this horrendous time,” read one tweet. “So sad RIP... but what a warrior of a dad,” read another.
Pundits heaped praise on his performance, with one of the match referees saying he put in a “spectacular” showing.