| Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Cameroon players observe a minute’s silence in St Etienne Friday. (AP)
Paris, June 28 (AFP): The Confederations Cup final between France and Cameroon on Sunday will be like no other, an occasion laced with poignancy, being held in the shadow of the sudden death of Marc-Vivien Foe.
To acknowledge Thursday’s tragedy in Lyon, the match at the Stade de France here will be stripped of all the spectacle that normally accompanies such an event, leaving just the football to act as a tribute to the 28-year-old Cameroon international.
“Everything that’s not football, like the closing ceremony, has been cancelled,” said Chuck Blazer, president of Fifa’s competitions organising commission.
Fifa said the best way to mark Foe’s death after his collapse in the 72nd minute of the semi-final against Colombia was to stage a final imbued with “great dignity”.
This will be the last Confederations Cup final, for the next edition in 2005 has been renamed the Marc-Vivien Foe Trophy.
French skipper Marcel Desailly was not alone in questioning whether the match should go ahead at all, but Roger Milla, Cameroon’s 1990 World Cup star, explained: “We had a meeting with the players and directors and decided to go ahead and play in his honour.”
Quite how the Indomitable Lions and their gallic counterparts will cope with the challenge facing them is impossible to say but a recent precedent, when Michael Schumacher won the San Marino Grand Prix only hours after the death of his mother, suggests that for 90 minutes at least, they will place grief to one side and concentrate on the job in hand.
France’s Manchester United defender Mikael Sylvestre suggested a fitting outcome would be to have “two winners”.
The mourning Cameroon squad made the trip up from Lyon to their new head quarters in the suburbs of Paris on Friday, electing to stay behind closed doors and forgo the chance to hold a public training session.
The African and Olympic champions have asked and been granted special permission to carry the name of their dead teammate on their shirts.
Cameroon, who drew 1-1 in their only previous encounter with the hosts, would not have been on everyone’s shortlist to make the final after their first-round exit from the World Cup last summer.
Yet under German coach Winfried Schafer, they stunned World Cup winners Brazil and third-placed Turkey and drew 0-0 with the United States before seeing off Colombia.
Striker Samuel Eto’o, lining up for his club Real Mallorca in the Spanish Cup final on Saturday, could well make a quick reappearance 24 hours later for his country at the Stade de France.
France have led a charmed life since the start of this competition, being awarded a dubious penalty in their opener against Colombia, and then being let off the hook when Yokan Yilmaz squandered a spot kick in the final minutes of Thursday’s semi-final win against Turkey.
A late strike by Okan Yilmaz gave Turkey a 2-1 win over Colombia on Saturday and third place in a Confederations Cup. Tuncay Sanli fired Turkey into a second minute lead after a defensive mix-up. Colombia’s Giovanni Hernandez levelled in the 63rd.