Family and friends of an Adelaide footballer who died during an on-field collision have come together for a celebration of his life.
Antonio Loiacono died after he suffered a fatal injury during the first match of the season on April 23.
The Adelaide tradie has been remembered as a lifelong lover of the game after starting to play at just four years of age.
His funeral service is being held at the Harrison Rivergum Chapel though a crowd have also gathered at the Hope Valley Sporting Club oval where a lifestream of the service is playing.
‘Brothers by choice’
Antonio’s best friend detailed their last conversation which almost never happened.
He accidentally called him a few days before his sudden death while his phone was in his pocket.
“The last words he said to me were ‘I love you’,” he told the crowd.
Birdwood footballer Antonio Loiacono died on Sunday night after an on-field collision during an Adelaide Hills Football League match. Picture: SuppliedAntonio Loiacono, pictured with little brother Jack. Picture: SuppliedHe started playing football at age 4. Picture: Supplied
“I couldn’t have been more thankful that I got to hear it one last time.”
He said Antonio was one of a group of 21 local boys who made a promise to each other in recent years that they would be “brothers by choice”.
Addressing them directly, he said “although today we have lost a brother, we have gained a couple of hundred more through him”.
‘One of life’s top blokes’: Dad
Antonio was the first-born son of the Loiacono family who moved to Hope Valley from Sydney when he was in primary school.
His father Sal Loiacono described him as “one of life’s top blokes,” who “never had a bad word to say about anyone”.
“We have never been so close,” Mr Loiacono said of the time before his death.
He said his son received “quite a few head knocks” during his lifetime football career, saying he even gave up the sport a few years ago after getting concussed during a grand final.
His father remembered him as ‘one of life’s top blokes’. Picture: SuppliedThe funeral service is underway at Harrison Rivergum Chapel. Picture: Supplied
Antonio donated his organs to six people and his brain to sport research to help better understand the impact of sport injuries like the one that ultimately ended his life.
“He lives on in six people,” his father said. “Whoever has his heart is a lucky person.”
His father cherished memories with his two boys who he bonded with over their love of sport, motorbikes and the Sydney Swans.
Locals, friends, family and teammates gather at Hope Valley Sporting Club for the funeral. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi JellicoeThe pitch siren will ring out at the close of the service. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi Jellicoe
He recalled his last body surf with Antonio at the filming location of TV series Home and Away which he said his son watched “religiously”.
Tributes for Birdwood football player at Gumeracha Oval. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi JellicoeThe young footballer was a loyal Sydney Swans fan. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan SetteThe Birdwood Football Club home ground. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan Sette
Antonio’s father will escort the hearse around the oval after the service. He will be joined by his motorbike club as mourners watch on from the stands.
The pitch siren will ring out across the oval to mark the end of the service.
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