Cameroon will play in the Confederations Cup for the first time since 2003 — a tournament forever remembered for the tragic death of Marc-Vivien Foe.
The midfielder was just 28 when he collapsed and died on the pitch in Lyon during a semifinal victory over Colombia.
He was later found to have suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — a rare hereditary heart condition, which affects fewer than 0.2 percent of people.
Foe will be in the thoughts of many Cameroon players and supporters when they kick off the tournament against Chile on Sunday.
“We want to play well for him — to honour and respect what he did for Cameroon,” said Arnaud Djoum, who has been given the same No. 17 shirt as Foe for the tournament in Russia.
Those tributes will also be a pertinent reminder for many Manchester City fans — the club he was playing for when he died.
Just two months before his death, Foe had written in his name in the club’s history books by scoring the last City goal in the final season at their old Maine Road stadium.
Typical of City at the time, it wasn’t the last goal at the ground. That honour went to Southampton’s Michael Svensson although Foe almost claimed that too, only for a late shot in the final game of the season to be kept out by goalkeeper Paul Jones.
Foe had joined City on a season-long loan from Lyon the previous summer with the view to permanent deal, which City were likely to enact after he made an instant impact for Kevin Keegan’s side.
He played in all-but three of their Premier League games, scoring nine goals as City finished a creditable ninth — their highest finish in a decade and coming just after they had secured promotion from the Championship.
Foe was a hugely popular figure in the City dressing room and Keegan was too distraught to comment after initially hearing about his death.
“Marc was not only a special footballer but a very special person,” he said later. “We will all miss his smile and his personality.
“Nothing was ever too much trouble for him and he was the ultimate professional loved by everyone in the dressing room and the boardroom.
“It was a privilege to work with him for the past year and we were still in the process of trying to negotiate a deal that would have made him a City player.”
The club retired his No.23 shirt and fans laid wreaths and tributes at the ground.
But City weren’t the only club where Foe had made a significant impact. After making his debut as a teenager for Canon de Yaounde — one of Cameroon’s leading teams — he moved to Lens, where he won Ligue 1, and then on to West Ham for a then club record fee of £4.2m in 1999.
Former Hammers manager Harry Redknapp remained a fan of the player and was even trying to take him to his new club Portsmouth.
“He had a good season at Manchester City last season and I was interested in signing him and give him a two-year contract and we’ve been discussing it,” Redknapp said.
“It’s just come as such a shock, he was in such good physical condition as, he looks after himself and you couldn’t meet a nicer boy than Marc, he was a fantastic person.” Foe’s time in Manchester could have been entirely different had he not broken his leg shortly before the 1998 World Cup with Sir Alex Ferguson keen on taking him to Old Trafford.
That injury had been a major setback but in his final season at City, Foe returned to the sort of form that had made him one of the most exciting central midfielders in Europe.
Cameroon’s final Confederations Cup game against Germany on June 25 is the day before the 14th anniversary of Foe’s death. His impact and sad loss is still being felt in Europe as well as Africa.