Nicholas Wade, 33, died on Christmas Day, shortly after having surgery to treat the bowel condition ulcerative colitis.
Nicholas, from Wyke near Bradford, had been a member of Wyke Wanderers FC since childhood. He played as a central defender.
He left St James's Hospital in Leeds on Christmas Eve after an operation to remove his large bowel, but collapsed while at home with his girlfriend the next day.
The Arsenal fan, a plumber who worked for a building services firm, had regularly posted on his Facebook account about his struggles with the illness, which affected his daily life and meant he had to plan toilet stops into his day when leaving the house.
He had paid tribute to medical staff at St James's who were working over the Christmas period shortly before his death.
Wyke Wanderers cancelled a post-Christmas fixture after hearing the news and instead gathered at Scholes Cricket Club to celebrate his life. Nicholas had been forced to miss the team's Christmas night out due to a flare-up of his condition.
In a Facebook update shortly before Christmas, he told his friends that he had spent eight hours in theatre and was in 'quite a bit of pain' after the procedure. Poignantly, he added:-
"If I don't get home for Christmas it’s not the end of the world. They will be many more Christmases now in the future."
He had celebrated his first anniversary with girlfriend Charlotte shortly before being admitted to hospital, and photos on social media show the couple enjoying a day out at Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley, with her daughters.
On December 7, he confirmed on Facebook that he had been told he needed a major operation and warned that he may not survive.
"I simply just want to share with my friends the struggles I have been trying to hide for four years now. When I cancel last minute plans; let people down; never show up on a night out; hardly drink anymore; arrive late to things; please know that it isn’t because I can’t be bothered or I’m a bad mate... it’s because I usually have to plan my journey around toilet stops; or some days I have been to the toilet six times before I even attempt to drive to work.
"Sometimes there is no warning, it comes over me so fast that the panic and urgency floods my whole body with worry and dread. I dread the aeroplane seatbelt sign. I dread being on a football pitch away from a toilet. I dread being in the supermarket and needing to abandon my trolley to run and find a toilet. I dread having to use the disabled toilet for people to judge me because I don’t look disabled. I hate that on a plane I get up multiple times people look at me shiftily! I dread being stuck in traffic with no means to get to a toilet if I need to. I have previously asked to work alone to stop the embarrassment of having to go to the loo all the time in front of colleagues. I take Imodium by the packet load to desperately try help me if I’m going out somewhere with friends in the hope I will just enjoy a normal night out. It doesn’t even touch the sides.
"I have tried numerous medications, some so strong they are killing my immune system and it’s still not working. I have been admitted in to hospital for lengthy stays on IV drips and meds. I have reacted to medications with potentially life-threatening side effects. My only option now will be to have my colon removed and face life with a permanent bag. An operation which takes about six hours and the surgeon told me 'there have been cases of young fit men just like yourself who don’t survive the surgery' - it’s a big risk but my alternative is simply no longer an option.
"I have battled the demons that this debilitating disease can cause: the depression, shame, loneliness, desperate panic, embarrassment, pain, and isolation. I don’t want to hide it anymore. With the help of my family who have been so supportive I have decided that I’m going to speak out and get the weight of the stigma off my chest; if it helps one person understand or even relate then it’s worth it.
"I'm supposed to be on my football club's Christmas do tonight but I’m not well enough so had to bail today. Instead I’m having a Christmas night in making cookies with the kids and staying indoors close to the toilet. Hopefully in the new year I can get my life back and start actually living, and not just surviving.
"Blokes - keep talking. It isn’t sad/pathetic/silly - it’s so important. I’m accepting I’m ill and making friends with the idea. Once I accept it instead of hiding it and pretending I’m fine then I can tackle this next year head on."
Wyke Wanderers club secretary David Ryan, who is also a cousin of Nicholas's mother, said:-
"He was a lovely guy, a gentle giant and a decent footballer. He played for us as a junior and two seasons ago came back to join the senior side. You never saw him get upset, and he was looking forward to a pain-free year after the operation.
"He was hoping to get married. His parents are in bits - it's hit our family really hard. We all knew he was struggling with his illness, but we didn't know the extent of it. He'd started to get poorly in the last year and he wasn't available for as many games.
"It was a fairly routine keyhole operation. There was no indication that there were any problems."
Wyke Wanderers posted a tribute to Nicholas on their Facebook page:-
"The club is devastated to hear the news that one of its current open-age players has passed away.
"Nicholas Wade was a hardworking, caring and committed person who took those attributes onto the pitch. A true Wanderer.
"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. Once a Wanderer, always a Wanderer."
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel condition that causes ulcers to form in the colon. It leads to abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and anaemia, and flare-ups can occur regularly or intermittently.
The cause is unknown, although it is more common in the western world, and it has been suggested that western diets or environmental factors could be to blame. Although it can be managed with medication, the disease can only be cured if the colon is removed.
Former Manchester United and Scotland footballer Darren Fletcher is a high-profile sufferer, and he admitted before his retirement that he had to manage the condition throughout his career.