Marc-Vivien Foé

Cameroonian footballer

Marc-Vivien Foé, footballer: born Nkolo, Cameroon 1 May 1975; married (three children); died Lyons, France 26 June 2003.

Marc-Vivien Foé was a talented, robust Cameroonian midfield player who stood out among the growing band of African players who have made a mark on European football. In spells in England at West Ham United and Manchester City, he won the admiration and affection of managers, team-mates and supporters.

Foé, who collapsed and died while playing for his country against Colombia in France on Thursday, played for Manchester City on loan last season. He appeared in 35 league games for the club and scored nine goals. City's manager, Kevin Keegan, had been trying to negotiate a permanent deal with Lyons to keep Foé at the club.

The 6ft 3in Foé grew up among a generation of young Cameroonian footballers inspired by the performances of their national team at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The so-called Indomitable Lions, with the ageing genius Roger Milla at the forefront, made it to the quarter-finals where they lost 3-2 to England. By the time the next tournament, held in the United States, came around Foé was in the team. The 19-year-old played in every game as Cameroon lost disappointingly against Sweden, Brazil and Russia.

In 1997 he joined the by now well-worn trail from Africa to Europe, to play for Lens in the French first division. He helped the little-heralded club to win their first ever title.

A broken leg in 1998 cost Foé the chance of playing in the World Cup in his adopted home country, and also ruled out a lucrative transfer to Manchester United. Alex Ferguson had already agreed a fee in the region of £5m for Foé, but the injury scuppered the deal. United went on to win the Treble of European, League and FA Cup in 1998/99, while Foé faced a long fight back to fitness.

He finally arrived in England in January 1999 when the West Ham manager Harry Redknapp, ever prepared to take a punt on an overseas player, paid Lens £4m for Foé. Although he was a popular figure among supporters and the staff at West Ham's Chadwell Heath training ground, his stay at West Ham was not a huge success. In 38 league matches he scored just one goal, and in his last appearance for the Hammers, a goalless draw at home to Leeds, he was sent off. Days later he was on his way back to France. Redknapp needed funds to buy a striker, and Foé was sold to Lyons for £6m.

In 2002 Foé got the chance to erase the misery of missing the 1998 World Cup, as Cameroon qualified for the finals in Japan and South Korea. He played in all his team's games against Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Germany, but the Indomitable Lions were eliminated at the group stage. Weeks after the end of the tournament he was in Manchester, playing on loan for Kevin Keegan's City.

Foé died in the Stade Gerland, Lyons, which had been his home ground. His death shocked his former club doctor. "I knew Marc very well," said Jean-Marcel Ferret. "He was a very nice guy, fully fit, a physical monster." Harry Redknapp, now Portsmouth manager, said: "He was such a powerful, strong man. He was a terrific footballer."

Alex Murphy

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