LYON: Ten-man Cameroon booked their place in the Confederations Cup final on Thursday, but celebrations turned to shock and grief with the death of their midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed in the 72nd minute of the match.
Foe, who spent last season on loan at English Premier League Manchester City from French club Olympique Lyon, collapsed in the centre circle, and was carried off on a stretcher with a breathing tube in his mouth. He died around half an hour later.
Alfred Mueller, FIFA's Swiss medical officer for Lyon, told a news conference: “I have to give you very sad information. The player Marc-Vivien Foe has died.
“This is a very sad day for football, for FIFA and for the player's family. This is all we can say at the moment.”
FIFA, who said there would be an autopsy to determine the circumstances of the death.
“The player was still alive when he was taken to the medical centre in Gerland Stadium in Lyon, where he died. Doctors performed cardiac resuscitation for 45 minutes without success.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was himself shocked.
“FIFA and the whole family of football are shattered by this unbelievable tragedy,” Blatter said in a statement in Paris.
In Lyon, FIFA press chief Hedi Hamel said players of both teams were in a state of shock and, forgoing their showers and still wearing their match kit, joined each other in prayers.
“They were stunned and it was a moment of great emotion for the Colombian players who were also in a state of shock.
“There is great solidarity among them and an extraordinary chain of friendship has been formed.
“A lot of Colombian players prayed immediately after (news of Foe's death) and were joined (in prayer) by the Cameroon players,” he said.
“It was a terrible scene.”
Hamel also said: “Marc-Vivien Foe was with us yesterday and the day before, he seemed happy and enjoying life. His one love was to play football and he really wanted to play this match.”
A minute's silence was observed before the other semi-final in Paris.
France's goalkeeper Gregory Coupet, a Lyon team mate of Foe, appeared distraught, while Thierry Henry, who opened the scoring for the hosts shrugged off his team mates' congratulations and pointed to the sky.
“The first goal was for him,” he said afterwards.
Henry's gesture brought tears to the eyes of France manager Jacques Santini, the former coach of Foe's Lyon, who were French champions in 2002.
Back in Yaounde in Cameroon. cheers of celebration turned to screams of disbelief as news of death came through.
Several people collapsed and had to be taken to hospital in the capital while thousands hurried home from bars where they had been watching the game as the streets emptied quickly.
For most fans, Foe's death made Sunday's final against France an irrelevance.”This is just too much of a sacrifice,” said Meh Zang, owner of an Internet cafe.
The Indomitable Lions had been reduced to tears.