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Marc Vivien-Foe
Cameroon D.O.B:01/05/75
Written by Monksie

The loss of Marc Vivien Foé on 26 June 2003 was obviously a great shock to all at Manchester City, where he'd spent the 2002-2003 season on loan from Olympique Lyonnais. Within hours of the event, supporters arrived at Maine Road to hang shirts, scarves, written tributes and flowers etc. on the entrance to the ground. As the days passed, tributes began to cover the Maine Road forecourt as supporters from many other clubs in England and beyond flooded in. Others even began to appear at the gates outside the club's new City of Manchester Stadium in the Eastlands area. A book of condolence was organised by the club and began to fill with names.

Foé collapsed in the centre circle, just inside his own half, during Cameroon's Federations Cup semi-final against Colombia at the Stade Gerland in Lyon as play had moved deep into his opponents' field. Immediately on noticing his condition, players from both sides and the referee called for a stretcher. Marco sadly died shortly after as all attempts to revive him failed. He was just 28 and left a wife and three children, the youngest of whom had only recently been born.

As a mark of respect, the French team - many of whom had played with and against Foé in the French and English leagues and at international level, banded together during a minute's silence prior to their semi-final later the same day. The sight of Thierry Henry and many of his team-mates openly weeping made for a poignant moment, as did the French side's gestures of pointing up to the sky when Henry opened the scoring for France, as if to indicate that the spirit of Foé had already ascended to the heavens. The Cameroon squad warmed up on the Stade de France pitch before the final wearing green shirts bearing Foé's name and number 17 on the back, and both teams walked onto the pitch for the match itself carrying a huge picture of the departed player, which stayed at pitchside throughout the game. The victorious French captain Marcel Desailly invited his Cameroon counterpart Rigobert Song to share the trophy after the presentation.

Born on 1 May 1975 in Nkolo, Cameroon, Foé started his European career in France with Lens and was a member of their championship winning side of 1996. He attracted the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson who intended to sign him for Manchester United. Unfortunately, the player suffered a broken leg prior to the 1998 World Cup in France which cancelled the proposed transfer, but upon his recovery Marc joined West Ham United for a season, scoring twice in 25 appearances for the Irons.

Foé returned to France with Olympique Lyonnais, again winning the French championship in 2001-2002 - the first the club had achieved this feat in their history. He played in all three of Cameron's group matches at the 2002 World Cup in Japan, but again the Indomitable Lions went out at the group stage.

After a short close season he signed for Manchester City on a year's loan and took time to settle, though he eventually scored 9 League goals for the club, his second against Sunderland in a 3-0 win on Easter Monday being the last-ever goal by a City player at Maine Road. During an on-pitch interview after City's last game of the season at Maine Road, manager Kevin Keegan said he considered City would struggle to survive in the next season as he had to find replacements for retiring goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and Foé; he had earlier tried to negotiate a permanent deal with Lyonnais for the midfielder, but was put off by their asking price of £7,000,000.

After his death his wife had mentioned in an interview that Marc was looking forward to playing for City at their new City Of Manchester Stadium in the 2003-2004 season, although newspaper reports insisted that his former West Ham manager Harry Redknapp was very keen on signing him for newly-promoted Portsmouth side. Mrs Foé had indicated in the interview that Marc had complained of indigestion and dehydration prior to his fateful last game, but a post-mortem examination indicated that he had died from "sudden death syndrome", a condition which causes athletes to die during their regular sports activity without any warning symptoms.

Internet message board activity intensified shortly after the news of Foé's death broke as messages from across the world to sites all over the world passed back and forth. It soon became clear that, as reports surfaced of Marc's hitherto unpublicised efforts to improve the lot of disadvantaged youngsters in his home country though football coaching, the world in general had lost a great man who served the game and his nation tirelessly and with distinction. Suggestions as to how best to honour his memory were rife, with the most popular being a proposed friendly match involving players from all of the clubs Foé represented, with the proceeds going to the youth foundation he established at home in Cameroon. It is believed that Olympique Lyonnais are keen to stage such a game and Manchester City have expressed an interest in providing players to take part. City have "retired" the no.23 squad number used by Foé during his only season with us. Foé was given a state funeral in the country's capital Youande on 4 July 2003 in recognition of his services to Cameroon.

So what impact did MVF have during his brief stay in Manchester? He started off rather uncertainly, appearing to find the Premiership a different league to adapt to and games seemed to pass him by. But he was a tall, muscular figure and slowly began to get the measure of the English game, asserting himself in the famous 3-1 derby win over United and scoring two late goals at the Valley as City grabbed an unlikely point from going 2-0 behind. His goals at Sunderland (away) and against Aston Villa at home on Boxing Day demonstrated his athletic prowess and determination.

He put City into a 2-1 lead at Goodison Park on Boxing Day and caused much amusement amongst the travelling Blues by appearing to celebrate his strike with the home supporters in the Gwladys Street stand. The broad smile on his face when he appeared to realise his error lit up a dark Merseyside afternoon and will live long in the memory, as will his goals against Sunderland at Easter. His unfortunate handball gave away a penalty which saw City lose their last-ever F.A.Cup tie at Maine Road to Liverpool in the third round by 1-0 scoreline, but Marc stuck with it and eventually finished the season as city' second-top goalscorer with 9 goals.

Prior to his death there was great debate amongst City fans and others about Foé's effectiveness during the season and whether City should sign him permanently. All such considerations were of course rendered null and void by the tragedy but I for one feel that, as we make ourselves at home in our new stadium at Eastlands, something is not quite right and someone is missing. Then I tell myself that maybe Thierry Henry and his French team-mates were right after all; perhaps Marco (as his French team-mates called him) is up there, looking down and smiling brightly. There's an unforgettable picture from a training session of Marc wearing a hooded City training jacket, holding a ball in one hand, gesticulating with the other and obviously laughing.

That's how I'd like to remember him, and I'm sure the anonymous Blue who posted the following tribute won't mind my borrowing his/her words which say it all:

" Amazing, Amusing, Bewitching, Confusing, Frustrating, Beguiling, Leaving us Smiling "

Marc Vivien Foé

City in one man