He'll be remembered for long

DEATH on the football ground is a rare occurrence, with only a handful of cases recorded around the world over many years. And as such, Marc-Vivien Foe would be remembered for long as much for his tragic death as his shy, likeable individual demeanour. On the field, the 28-year-old was a powerful and skilful midfielder earning 65 caps for his country before death came along uninvited on July 26 during the Cameroon vs Colombia semifinal of the recently held FIFA Confederations Cup.

Playing in stifling heat at Stade Gerland in Lyon, Foe fell to the ground unchallenged in the centre circle after 72 minutes of play. Despite the immediate attention of the medical staff, he was pronounced dead almost an hour later plunging not only his family and friends but also the entire football world in deep sorrow. Far away in Paris, the French captain, Marcel Desailly, summed up the tragedy best as he commented, "Football means very little in such circumstances. I am extremely sad."

Born in Nkolo in the Cameroon, Foe began his career with local club Canon Yaounde and earned recognition for the first time when he was picked to represent his country in the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. In 1996, the 21-year-old Foe was spotted by the French club Lens and was a key member as his newly-adopted side went on to win the French title. The powerfully built 6ft 3in midfielder was soon scouted by some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Manchester United.

However, Foe broke his leg during a training session and the move collapsed. That injury also caused Foe to miss the 1998 World Cup in France, but he bounced back and when he finally looked good to move to Old Trafford, West Ham came up with a much better offer that forced the Cameroon midfielder to sign up for that side. However, he never got settled with West Ham in the Premiership and after 38 appearances and a goal, moved back once again to France to Lyon.

In 2000, disaster struck again for Foe when he was down with a bout of malaria. But again he came back strongly and helped Lyon to the French title before helping Cameroon win the 2002 African Nations Cup, beating Senegal on penalties. Led by Foe in the middle, it looked like Africa would finally have a team ready to challenge the European and South American supremacy in the World Cup when the event came to Asia last year.

However, like in USA '94, Cameroon fell at the first hurdle. Foe featured in all the three group games against Ireland, Germany and Saudi Arabia, playing his part from the midfield as a seasoned professional. After the World Cup, he joined Manchester City on loan and played his part well in a successful season for City. He was particularly impressive as City secured its Barclaycard Premiership status over last Christmas, with Foe scoring six goals in as many matches.

But, with City not being able to agree to terms with Lyon that would have Foe's stay with the club permanent, he was on the verge of returning to his parent side for the coming season. Sadly, that would not be a reality now. And the tragic death just showed what a special player and person Foe was and how much he will be missed.

Foe lived and died a hero. Having died on the battle ground, it is only natural that the football world is sure to remember him for long, venerating his courage, combative spirit and unswerving sense of patriotism.