June 26th 2003 will forever be engraved in the football annals of Cameroon. During the semifinal of the confederation cup at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon France, between Cameroon and Columbia, midfielder Marc Vivien Foe collapsed and died. His death caused a profound shock in football circles. Since then, FIFA has improved the way players are checked for any heart/health issues before they can play for any team.
Today June 26th 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of his dramatic dead.
“Marc Vivien Foe was never one for setting money aside or investing…he gave it all willingly to family, friends and everyone else who asked. It is so ironic that, at that crucial moment, his heart was not strong enough to save him, because he had a great heart” FIFA’s technical director, Walter Gagg said as he paid tribute to the fallen Cameroonian midfielder who died ten years ago today.
Marc Vivien Foe was on international duty for his country, Cameroon during the confederation cup in France on 26th June, 2003 when at the 72nd minute, he just collapsed and died in front of the world media. There was no contact with any other player, he just slumped and died.
An autopsy revealed he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary condition that could, with intense physical exercise, cause a heart attack.
Last year, the same thing happened to another player of African descent, Fabrice Muamba who played for the English premier league side Bolton Wanderers; fortunately for him defibrillators were on hand, and his life was saved.
Ten years on, the football world is today paying tribute to Foe who at 28, arguably passed on at the peak of his career. Before his tragic death, He had 65 caps, featured at two World Cups, 1994 and 2002, and twice won the African Nations Cup, in 2000 and 2002 with the Cameroon national team.
Festivities to mark Foe’s death began in earnest in April in Britain where he played for two premier league clubs- West Ham united and Manchester City.
During a league game between the two clubs, Manchester city and West Ham set of fans paid tribute to the Cameroonian international when the club showed Foe’s portrait on the electronic board. On the 23rd minute, (representing Marc Vivien’s no 23 shirt), both sets of fan applauded for one minute.
Messages have been posted on social media celebrating Foe. On Twitter under the Hastag #RememberFoeOn23, one Manchester city fan, Scott George wrote:
“Some things are bigger than football itself and the tragedy of losing such a prestigious talent before he had reached his peak is a stark reminder of the frailties of humans but the generosity shown by all fans showed our strength’s”
“Gone but not forgotten…Manchester city and West Ham fans will always remember you” Brandy Sinclair tweeted.
Another fan, #2Sofcookies wrote: “Marc Vivien Foe will always be remembered and the club did us proud to retire his shirt. It has been a fitting tribute, especially with the Muamba incident last year”.
On his Face book account, one Cameroonian, Darry Lowe posted on his wall Eternal lion, may your soul rest in peace. It is ten years since you left us, but your place at the national team is still empty because you were indispensable in your role. We will always miss you”
Though Cameroon was plunged into grief by Foe’s death, activities to mark his tenth anniversary in his native country have been largely low-keyed.
Though not a prolific goal scorer, Foe would however be remembered for scoring the last goal at the old Manchester city’s ground called Maine road.
At the club’s former ground, there is a small memorial to him in the stadium’s memorial garden, and on the walls of the players’ tunnel are plaques paid for by supporters, with their names, dubbed the Walk of Pride.
His other legacies include, two heart foundations – based in France and the United Kingdom started by the Heart and Arteries Foundation. The purpose of both projects is to fund research on cardiac arrest, a medical condition that causes 50,000 deaths in France each year.
Marie-Louise, Foe’s widow is backing both foundations. They had three children
Back home in his native country, Foe Sport Complex in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital lies largely uncompleted in spite of pledges made by the Cameroon government to complete the construction work.
There is a Marc Vivien Foe Award in France set up to honour the best of African football players in the French League. This year’s winner was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the Republic of Gabon, beating 12 other opponens.