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Cameroon's Foe Collapses and Dies

Midfielder, 28, suffers a possible heart attack during Confederations Cup semifinal game against Colombia.

June 27, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

International soccer lost one of its most popular and capable players Thursday when Marc-Vivien Foe, a starting midfielder on the Cameroon national team, collapsed and died during the African champion's FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal victory over Colombia in Lyon, France.

Foe, 28, was playing in his 65th game for his country. He was alone at the center of the playing field when he sank to his knees in the 71st minute of the game, then toppled forward.

The game -- played with afternoon temperatures in the high 80s -- was halted and Foe received immediate attention on the field and in the stadium's medical facility. But although doctors worked for 45 minutes to save him, they could not. It is believed he died of a heart attack, but an autopsy will determine the exact cause.

"After he went off the pitch ... we took him to first aid, and the heart stopped in the first aid," Alfred Mueller, FIFA's Swiss medical officer, said in Lyon. "This is a very sad day for football, for FIFA and for the player's family. This is all we can say at the moment."

Cameroon's players were in tears after their victory when they learned that their longtime teammate had died.

"It's a tragedy," Joseph Antoine-Bell, the goalkeeper on the Indomitable Lions' 1990 World Cup team, told France's Europe 1 radio station. "The Cameroon players are stricken with grief."

Foe's death was announced in Paris before the start of the day's other semifinal, involving France and Turkey. A large image of the midfielder was shown on the stadium's screen and a minute's silence was observed after the crowd was told of the loss.

"FIFA and the world family of football want to give his family and the Cameroon team their condolences," the stadium announcer said.

Born in Yaounde, Cameroon, on May 1, 1975, Foe first came to international attention when he joined FC Lens in France in 1994. He later played for West Ham United in England before returning to France with Olympique Lyon, the club he helped win the French championship in 2002.

His performance for Cameroon during the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan caught the eye of Kevin Keegan, former coach of England's national team and current Manchester City coach, and the club acquired him on loan last season.

"He is big, strong and a great athlete," he told Manchester City's Web site at the time. "He knows English football. Some signings are just right, and this is one."

Harry Redknapp, the coach who signed him for West Ham in 1998, was shocked by Foe's death.

"Everybody at West Ham loved him," he told England's Press Assn. "You only have to see the reactions of the French players tonight when they were lining up for the national anthems to see how popular he was in the game."

Lyon paid tribute to Foe on the player's own Web site: "We will keep of him his bursts of laughter, the music which comes out of the changing room, and his kindness away from the ground."

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