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Thousands follow Foe to burial
July 08, 2003 11:41 IST
Tens of thousands of people jammed the streets of Cameroon's capital on Monday for the burial with full national honours of midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed and died during the Confederations Cup.
Some climbed on roofs or up trees to get a view of the coffin as it was borne through Yaounde. Many wore copies of his number 17 shirt.
An autopsy showed on Monday that Foe died of a heart problem when he collapsed during Cameroon's 1-0 victory over Colombia in the Confederations Cup semi-final in France on June 26.
"He fought like a real lion, sought perfection, and loved his game, and whatever he earned he shared with all," said Bishop Joseph Akounga Essomba in his tribute during a nearly three-hour requiem mass.
Sepp Blatter, president of World soccer body FIFA, joined Cameroon's President Paul Biya and other important figures from the central African country for the mass.
Work came to a standstill in Yaounde as the presidential guard fought back crowds trying to get a closer peep.
"Here is the whole Cameroonian nation rising in unison to pay the last tribute to the fallen national hero," a state radio journalist commented. "No, it is the whole world," his colleague said.
Before Foe was lowered into the ground, he was knighted as a Commander of the Order of National Valour. As the family threw handfuls of soil onto the coffin, an outburst of wailing swept back from the graveside.
Foe was known in Cameroon for his generosity as well as his skills on the pitch, and his death came as a particular blow to those he had helped.
"For three years he is the one who paid my boarding fees and met my needs. Now he is gone. What shall I become?" asked 14-year-old Paul Nlib Njab at a centre for the handicapped.
Foe was born in 1975 at a village some 18 km (11 miles) south of Yaounde.
His footballing career began with second division side Garoua before he moved to the prestigious Canon of Yaounde and from there to Europe, where he played for French clubs RC Lens and Olympique Lyon as well as English sides West Ham United and Manchester City.
Foe, who had 65 caps, featured in two World Cups, 1994 and 2002, and twice won the African Nations Cup with Cameroon in 2000 and 2002.
He leaves behind a wife and three children, the youngest just two months old.