Marc-Vivien Foé, 20 years old: "The worst day in the history of Cameroonian football"
Twenty years after the disappearance of Marc-Vivien Foé, at the age of 28, on a football field, his former Cameroonian teammates remember the man he was, remember that fateful day and all that it changed afterwards for them.
The portrait of Marc-Vivien Foé in the middle of his Cameroonian teammates before the final of the 2003 Confederation Cup. AFP - PIERRE ANDRIEU
Text by: Ndiasse Sambe Follow
Man: "An elder always there for advice»
They were all present that day. On the field that would witness the last strides of their teammate Marc-Vivien Foé. Lucien Mettomo, Bill Tchato, and Pius N'Diefi were starters during this Cameroon-Colombia match (1-0), semi-final of the Confederation Cup, on June 26, 2003 in Gerland (Lyon). That day, they lost a teammate, "a friend, a big brother." "Twenty years later, I remember a nice guy to live with, testifies Lucien Mettomo today. Someone who respected his surroundings, who was very family. Who wanted the people around him to smile. »
The former Saint-Étienne player shared the same room as Marc-Vivien Foé in the national team and welcomed him when he arrived at Manchester City in 2002. "He was an elder who was always there to give you advice, to listen to you when you were in a difficult time," Mettomo continues.
Bill Tchato, he keeps the image of a Foé "very generous" "A person who welcomed me in a very, very positive way in the group of Lions since he was there before me.»
Discreet and kind " adds Pius N'Diefi. The former Sedan striker sat next to Marc-Vivien Foé in the dressing room and on the national team bus. Strangely, on the day of the tragedy, the discreet City player had not hesitated to sketch dance steps on the bus during the journey to play the semi-final.
The drama: "On asked the doctors to do a heart massage again"
"It happened on an action in which he is 40 meters from me. I see that help is coming in. Until we get off the field, go to the locker room, there is no worry. When we go for a cleanup, the coach holds us back and tells us that something bad has happened. The rest, we know it ... ». Lucien Mettomo is still struggling to relive this sad moment and does not want to immerse himself in these painful moments.
Bill Chato remembers almost every minute of that game and the aftermath. He was no longer on the pitch when Marc-Vivien Foé fell. The left-back of Kaiserslautern (Germany) at the time had received a second yellow card, synonymous with exclusion in the 69th minute. It is therefore from the stands that he sees his teammate lying on the pitch, five minutes after his exit. "We see 'Marco' falling, we don't realize right away that the problem is serious. What others see on TV; With eyes revulsed, I don't see it. So he went out and evacuated to the locker room. I keep watching the game and then we qualify."
Cameroon is in the final of the Confederation Cup and will meet France three days later. There are songs and smiles. As they leave the locker room to do the scrubbing to prepare for the final in three days, the Indomitable Lions meet Roger Milla. The legend cries. "Marco is gone!" Says. "We collapsed," recalls Pius N'Diefi. Everyone was crying, it was shock. I was next to him two hours before, and there he was gone. It was not possible. I remember, we even asked the doctors to do a heart massage again because we couldn't believe it."
The final, no one wanted to hear about it anymore. "We had just lost a teammate, football is nothing next to it," says Bill Tchato. It is finally at the request of Marc-Vivien Foé's wife that the group resolves to face the France precisely to pay tribute to "Marco". "We had to play for him," N'Diefi said. He was a warrior, we had to play for him."
La Lecon: « Enjoying life»
This June 26, 2003 will remain forever engraved in the collective memory of Cameroonian sport. "Cameroon has won African Cups, played World Cups, lived great moments, but this day will remain, it is obligatory, the worst day in the history of Cameroonian football. ", according to Pius N'Diefi.
For all Marc-Vivien Foé's teammates present that day, the drama changed their lives in the way they approach their sport or their existence. "It completely changed my way of perceiving things," admits Lucien Mettomo. I got involved and I am now an activist in the social sector. I have been part for years of the National Association of Cameroonian Footballers which deals with everything related to the reconversion and structuring of their life after football. It was inspired by him (Marc-Vivien Foé, editor's note), because he is someone who cared about others and elders. He had a form of generosity that I greatly missed. »
For a long time, Pius N'Diefi had moments of stress when walking the lawns after losing his friend. "I was scared," admits the retired player who currently lives in Saint-Quentin (Hauts-de-France). I often did heart tests to see if everything was okay. If it happened to 'Marco', it could happen to anyone."
Life is short and it's something that can happen to anyone, says Bill Tchato. You really have to minimize things and there are much more serious things than that. After this tragedy, I told myself that I had to enjoy life. We do a magnificent sport. We are privileged to make a living by playing, unlike other people who get up in the morning at 5am or 6am and only come home at night.»
This Monday, June 26, the Cameroonian Footballers Association organizes a friendly match between former internationals in tribute to Marc-Vivien Foé. A minute of silence will be observed before the start of the meeting.
► RFI archives:
Ten years without Marc-Vivien Foé
- The Marc-Vivien Foé Fund officially launched
- The funeral of Marc-Vivien Foé
- Death in his garden
- Marc-Vivien Foé: The France is contemplated
- Your reactions to the death of Marc-Vivien Foé
- Cameroon in mourning
- In memoriam
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