ETRAT (France): Cameroon’s players fought toshake off their gloom yesterday in preparation for the Confederations Cup final, a game they were bent on turning into a tribute to teammate Marc-Vivien Foe, who died after their semi-final game.
One day after the midfielder collapsed duringthe match against Colombia, the Cameroon squad was waiting to hear the cause of Foe’s death. A popular personality, Foe emerged from a poor African country to win admiration in Europe and adulation at home.
“We’ll play out of respect,’’ Cameroon captain Rigobert Song said before the squad traveled to the French capital for the final against the host nation.
“Life is hard sometimes...We are still in shock. Maybe when we get to Paris the drama will fade. He was a great player. I’ll miss him in my life and on the pitch,’’ he said.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that when hemet yesterday with Foe’s mother to offer his condolences, she said, “Where is my son? What have you done?’’
Players too had little appetite for the final.
“This has spoiled the tournament. No one really wants to play this final,’’ France’s midfielder Ludovic Giuly said. “The final will have a bitter, sad taste to it. There will be a lot of emotion. It won’t necessarily be the best team that wins.’’
FIFA scrapped pre-match entertainmentplanned for the final. The Cameroon players were expected to wear his name on their jerseys at the Stade de France.
The 28-year-old midfielder was carried unconscious from the field during Cameroon’s 1-0 win over Colombia and soon afterwards died despite doctors’ efforts to revive him.
An initial autopsy report by officials in Lyon, where the semi-final was held, found no evidence of ruptured blood vessels in his brain which could have caused a stroke. A full report likely won’t be ready until next week, the city’s public prosecutor’s office said.
FIFA doctor Alfred Mueller said Foe had beentreated for diarrhea early in the week but was in good shape for the semi-final.
“He had received rehydration treatment. Hewas also well treated at the hospital where his blood was checked and no infection was found.
The player felt absolutely well’’ ahead of the game, Mueller said.
Blatter, FIFA’s President, applauded Cameroon’s decision to play the final, saying it was “proof that soccer brings hope.’’
Blatter dashed from Paris to the Cameroontraining camp near Saint-Etienne early yesterday to console the team.
In a rallying speech, Blatter congratulated the sombre players for reaching the final of an official FIFA tournament.
He then walked into the midst of the playersand held hands with them in a circle. In apoignant moment, they together said silentprayers.
“You will be playing in memory of your colleague. Your and our sadness ... stays in our hearts, but life goes on and so does soccer,’’ Blatter told the players.
Referring to Foe, he said: “He would want youto play. That is why I salute your decision. It is a wonderful decision.’’
Foe and his wife had three children, theyoungest barely two months old. He had recently started building a sports academy in the outskirts of Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital.
Manchester City fans braved rain to visit theclub’s Maine Road stadium and leave shirts,scarfs, flowers and even teddy bears in remembrance of Foe.
“Marc was not only a special footballer but avery special person,’’ Manchester City manager and former England coach Kevin Keegan said.
The club announced they would `retire’ hisnumber 23 shirt.
Lyon said on its website: “Marc-Vivien Foewill leave us the memory of a charming boy, the incarnation of the joy in life.’’ – AP.