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    Remembering Marc Vivien Foe 15 years after collapsing on pitch 1975-2003

    It was the brutal abruptness of Marc-Vivien Foe's fatal collapse that made it so shocking.

    In the 73rd minute of the Confederations Cup semi-final between Cameroon and Colombia at Lyon's Stade de Gerland, the powerful midfielder was jogging along innocuously.

    No-one was close to him and nothing seemed wrong, yet suddenly he collapsed to the ground in the centre circle. Medical and support staff attempted to resuscitate the player on the pitch, before carrying him on a stretcher to the bowels of the stadium, where attempts to restart his heart failed and the man known affectionately by his team-mates as 'Marco' was pronounced dead.

    That was 15 years ago, on 26 June 2003, but the memories are still painfully fresh for many Cameroonians. Then Cameroon manager, Winfried Schafer said neither he nor his players had realised the seriousness of the situation at first.

    "We won the match 1-0 and the players were dancing in the changing rooms afterwards," he told BBC World Service's Sportsworld programme. "Then [captain] Rigobert Song came in and cried and said "Marco, Marco" and told us he was dead.

    "Everyone was shocked and was asking why. All the players were crying. I went out of the dressing room and heard two ladies crying very, very loudly. Then I saw Marco lying there, on a table, with his mother and wife by his side. I touched his leg and I went outside and cried too."

    A first autopsy failed to establish the cause of the 28-year-old's death, but a second found he been suffering from a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

    The big question everyone asked was how could a fit, athletic footballer with no known history of heart problems have died in such a way?

    After consultation with Foe's widow, Marie-Louise, as well as his parents, Fifa decided that the Confederations Cup final between France and Cameroon should go ahead as planned. Many of France's players, including striker Thierry Henry, were in tears as they lined up before the game.

    A picture of Foe was shown on the big screen ahead of the game and Cameroon's players held a huge photo of him during the trophy presentation to eventual winners France.

    The midfielder was given a state funeral in Cameroon in July 2003. Journalist Francis N-gwa Niba, who was there, remembers: "The funeral was huge. The president was there, [Fifa president] Sepp Blatter, everyone who was anyone in African football.
    "Thousands stood by the side of the road outside the cathedral and I remember one banner in particular, which read 'a lion never dies, he just sleeps'."

    Foe left behind a wife and sons aged six and three, as well as a daughter of only two months old. The player's generosity had been legendary, and there were reports that he hadn't much money left behind.
    Foe was buried on the site of the football academy he had been having built in his hometown of Yaounde. He used to send a proportion of his wages home to his father Martin each month to fund the construction of the complex, which sadly has practically been abandoned now because of lack of funding.
    One of his sons Marc Scott Foé, 22 has recently been slammed a five-year jail term by a court in Lyon, France for armed robbery.

    Foe had been on loan at Manchester City from Lyon in the 2002-03 season, making 35 appearances and scoring nine goals. City retired his number 23 shirt after his death, while a street was named after him in Lyon.

    Over a decade on, football will remember a fine player who grew up in poverty in Africa and went on to play in some of the biggest leagues in Europe. 

    Foe arrived at West Ham in 2000 as their club record £4m signing, yet could not have been more unassuming.

    Photo credit, BBC.

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