We are this summer approaching the 20th anniversary of Marc-Vivien Foe’s passing, an awful event that shocked the world of football to its core.
In the 73rd minute of a Confederations Cup semi-final between Cameroon and Columbia the 6ft 2 midfielder collapsed in the centre-circle, and despite the best efforts of medics to resuscitate him, he died right there on the pitch.
A second autopsy revealed an undetected heart defect but of course nobody knew this at the time, and of course – as with every instance of grief – our shock took many forms.
The most over-riding element of our mourning consisted of a hopeless attempt to make sense of the fact that one of the best midfielders in Premier League history had simply ceased to be.
The previous season, Foe had been brilliant for Manchester City as the Blues enjoyed a successful return to the top-flight under Kevin Keegan, his nine goals and instrumental displays playing a large part in the club comfortably finishing mid-table.
🙏 Remembering Marc-Vivien Foe, who sadly passed away 18 years ago today.— SPORF (@Sporf) June 26, 2021
🌹 RIP. pic.twitter.com/TxWajRgBmJ
As the player flew to France to participate in the Confederations Cup, City were beginning the process of making his loan move from Lyon permanent.
If ‘Marco’ had already established himself as a firm fan favourite at City – just weeks earlier scoring the final ever goal at Maine Road – the same was true at West Ham, joining them for a club record fee in 1999
A pivotal presence in an entertaining Harry Redknapp side that had the online betting odds tipping them to soon break into the top six and achieve great things, Foe set the standards for emerging talents such as Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to emulate. He left a year later for an even larger fee.
If the high profile of Foe’s stature left us stunned as the tragedy unfolded so too did his superb fitness levels, despite us all being painfully aware that heart conditions are indiscriminate of this.
Even amidst a sport full of supreme athletes, Foe’s powerful mien and endless running made him appear untouchable to life’s cruel hand. How could such a dynamic 28-year-old – an indomitable lion no less – simply no longer be? It defied possibility though we knew, deep down, it didn’t.
Quand le Cameroun jouait avec un maillot sans manches lors de la CAN 2002 👀🇨🇲— BeFootball (@_BeFootball) March 10, 2023
Pour la Coupe du Monde suivante, la FIFA avait interdit cette tenue et mettait fin au maillot débardeur. pic.twitter.com/9UGahQu1hG
And then, soon after the terrible news, came mourning anew as the tributes poured in.
We learned that we were wholly correct in assuming that ‘Marco’ was a lovely man, setting up a sports complex in Africa in his name.
We discovered too that he was an extremely popular figure in every dressing room he inhabited, rarely without a big beaming smile and always willing to go that extra yard for friends and team-mates.
“He was one of the most genuine and likeable blokes you could ever meet.” So said goalkeeper Nicky Weaver at the time, while City’s then chairman John Wardle revealed that ‘Marco’ had planned to stay in France post-tournament that summer to coach under-privileged youngsters.
So we remember him, as we should always remember him, Marc-Vivien Foe. Because on that terrible day in June 20003, football didn’t only lose a fantastic player, but a gentleman. An indomitable lion no less.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 16th March 2023