In June 2003, Manchester City Football Club was rocked by the news on-loan midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe tragically died on the field of play for Cameroon.
The 28-year-old powerhouse was playing for his country at the 2003 Confederations Cup semi-final for Cameroon before he suddenly collapsed with heart failure and never regained consciousness.
It was later confirmed that a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary disease where the wall of the heart muscle becomes thickened, was ultimately the cause of Foe’s premature death. The football world was stunned by the player’s sudden death leading Manchester City to retire Foe’s shirt number – 23 – from further use by any player.
Foe joined City in the summer of 2002 on loan for a fee of £550,000 from Ligue 1 side Lyon. Kevin Keegan, City’s manager at the time, identified his midfield was in need of strengthening should they wish to have any chance of Premier League survival following promotion from the First Division.
Keegan convinced Foe to join the Blues after the player missed the majority of the past two seasons at Lyon after suffering from Malaria shortly after joining Alan Perrin’s title-winning side. With attack-minded players such as Eyal Berkovic and Ali Bernarbia in midfield for City, Foe was initially signed to become the gel between defence and attack, ultimately enabling Keegan’s more creative players to attack freely.
However, things quickly changed in City’s final season at Maine Road as Foe became the club’s biggest goal-threat – with the exception of leading marksman Nicolas Anelka.
It took until December 2002 against Sunderland for Foe to register his first City goal but the dominating midfielder would end the season with nine goals in total; the second highest behind Anelka.
Between December and April, Foe scored another 8 eight goals for City as they desperately pushed for a top-half finish in their first season following promotion. Crucially, and historically, Foe scored the last goal scored by a Manchester City player at Maine Road when he scored his second goal against Sunderland on 21st April 2003. (City would lose their final home game of the season 0-1 against Southampton; the last game at Maine Road.)
City were already planning to sign Foe on a permanent contract after his impressive debut season for the Blues. The club was moving into the newly built City of Manchester Stadium in August 2003 and negotiations with Lyon already had taken place regarding a permanent transfer for the African midfielder before his untimely and sudden death.
Foe was highly regarded within’ football during his earlier years at Lens. His impressive stature famously caught the eye of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in 1998 and City’s biggest rivals had a £3million rebuffed by the Ligue 1 side.
City fans may never have received the opportunity to watch Foe in a Blue shirt had negotiations between both clubs ceased after Foe broke his leg in the lead up to the 1998 World Cup in France. Sadly, it was just another example of his extraordinary talent that the world’s elite teams wanted Foe to join them at one-point or another.
Marc Vivien Foe, gone but never forgotten by Manchester City supporters. Thank you for the short but pleasant memories. Rest in peace.