| Marc-Vivien Foe after collapsing on the pitch during the Confederations Cup semi-final in Lyon Thursday. (AFP)
Lyon: “Boys, even if it means dying on the pitch, we must win this semi-final,” midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe told his Cameroon teammates at half-time of Thursday’s Confederations Cup match against Colombia.
Thirty minutes later the midfielder collapsed without warning in the centre circle. He died soon afterwards (as reported in Friday’s Late City edition).
An autopsy showed nothing abnormal in his death, which was not caused by a stroke. “First analysis showed nothing abnormal but we rule out any stroke. Toxicological tests, which will take longer, will be carried out,” Xavier Richaud, public prosecutor for the Lyon region, said Friday, adds a report from Paris.
Fifa said Foe had suffered from diarrhoea before the semi-final, but Cameroon team doctor Olivier Assamba said Foe had recovered from the stomach upset, insisting there was no connection with the problem and the player's death.
“The results being all right, it was confirmed that there was no infection. Treatment was infusion of NaCl (sodium chloride) and immodium. On Wednesday evening the player felt well,” Fifa said in a statement.
In a detailed rundown of events on the pitch at the Stade Gerland Thursday, a Fifa statement said Foe was breathing immediately after collapsing, but that his eyes were rolled back, showing only the whites. “This may be the sign of the beginning of coma,” Fifa said.
After Foe was brought to the stadium’s first-aid centre, a decision was taken on the spot by the head French doctor not to have the player taken to hospital. “An ambulance is in any case ready on standby to transport the player to hospital, if need be. The first-aid station is fully equipped to offer the same medical assistance/treatment as a hospital,” Fifa said.
Foe’s condition was unchanged when he arrived at the first-aid unit, where he was given an infusion and oxygen. “During this process, the heart stopped beating and reanimation treatment was immediately started... approximately seven minutes after entering the first aid station. “This means 12-13 minutes after the player first collapsed on the field of play.”
Doctors tried reanimation for some 45 minutes, in vain, and his time of death was recorded at 8.20pm.
Fifa said the exact cause of death would be revealed “in the next few days” following the coroner’s decision. Chuck Blazer, chairman of the Confederations Cup organising committee, said Foe had received the best possible medical care. “I have to praise all who were involved in dealing with this tragedy. They had a sensible medical approach,” Blazer said Friday.
“We are not dealing with a situation in which there is a lack of medical attention. At this stage we are certain that everything that was required has been done. There was an excellent organisation from the people on the site and they did what they have to do to cope with an emergency situation.”
He also pointed that Foe had not been over-used during the tournament as he sat out Cameroon's third match.
Cameroon captain Rigobert Song told reporters on Friday he still could not believe what had happened to his great friend “Marco”. “It’s terrible, I have never lived through anything like it. Marco wasn’t ill, how could it have happened'” a sobbing Song said.
“We started as kids together, he and I. He’s a neighbour from my district of Yaounde and now he’s gone. “We shared so many things when we arrived in Europe together. For me he was like a brother. Yesterday at halftime, his last words were ‘Boys, even if it means dying on the pitch, we must win this semi-final’. And he was the victim. It’s terrible.”
“The final should be a celebration for Marco, our friend who has left us. After that we will take his body back to Cameroon and there the players will bury him.”
Wailing rent the morning air at the Foe family home in the leafy Mimboman neighbourhood of the capital Yaounde, says another report. “You were the light of this family. Why have you decided to go and leave us in darkness' Oh, we are lost,” screamed one of his aunts, throwing herself to the ground.
Cameroon’s state television said President Paul Biya had sent a message of condolence to Foe’s family. “A national day of mourning will be made to remember this player of ours,” Prince Noki Nukete, assistant general secretary of the Cameroon Football Association said.
A memorial mass for Foe has been jointly organised by RC Lens and Olympique Lyon for next week, the two French clubs have announced. The service will be held at the cathedral of Saint-Jean in Lyon. Foe will be buried in the colours of both clubs. Foe joined Lens in August 1994 and helped them win the French league for the first time in 1998.