It is exactly 17 years since former West Ham United favourite Marc-Vivien Foé tragically passed away at the age of just 28.
The midfielder collapsed while playing for his country, Cameroon, against Colombia in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon, France, on 26 June 2003.
Despite prolonged attempts to resuscitate him, Foé sadly passed away an hour later. A post mortem found evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary heart condition known to increase the risk of sudden death during physical exercise.
It was a shocking and unforgettable moment for football, and one which touched everyone associated with West Ham, the club Foé had joined for a record £4.2million fee and represented 48 times between January 1999 and May 2000.
Then-Chairman Terence Brown said at the time of his death: “I am deeply saddened by the death of Marc. He did very well for West Ham United during his short time with the Club and was highly regarded by everyone. A genuinely committed professional who will be a great loss to the football world.”
Born on 1 May 1975 in Yaoundé, Foé started out with local club Canon Yaoundé, before moving to France and making his name with RC Lens. He arrived in east London in the same week as Paolo Di Canio, and images of the pair hugging and smiling at the Boleyn Ground live long in the memory of every West Ham fan who has seen them.
A tall, athletic, strong and combative all-round midfield player, Foé helped Harry Redknapp’s entertaining Hammers finish fifth in the Premier League and win the UEFA Intertoto Cup in his first months in Claret and Blue.
The first of his two goals came in a UEFA Cup victory over NK Osijek in Croatia in September 1999, while the second was scored in a thrilling 4-3 Premier League win over Sheffield Wednesday in Upton Park two months later.
Playing alongside the likes of Di Canio, Trevor Sinclair, Joe Cole, Paulo Wanchope, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Frédéric Kanouté, Foé was part of arguably the most exciting West Ham team since the 1980s.
In 2000, after helping the Hammers to finish ninth in the Premier League, Foé moved back to France, joining Lyon, who had qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
He spent two years in Ligue 1 before returning to England with Manchester City, who would become his final club, in 2002.
At international level, Foé was an important member of the Cameroon side for a decade, earning 62 caps, scoring eight goals, traveling to eight major tournaments, including two FIFA World Cups, and winning the Africa Cup of Nations on two occasions.
Foé’s legacy has seen heart screening become a regular part of football across the world, and his contribution to the game, and West Ham United, will never be forgotten.