Eric Djemba-Djemba has revealed the chilling final words of former Cameroon team-mate Marc-Vivien Foe before he collapsed on the pitch during a Confederations Cup match in 2003.
Foe, who represented Lens, West Ham, Lyon and Manchester City during his career, told team-mates he was ready to die on the pitch in the hours preceding their semi-final tie against Colombia.
Djemba-Djemba partnered Foe in central midfield for Cameroon but on that day at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon, he saw his team-mate collapse inside the centre circle following an aerial challenge and he died soon after.
‘I will never forget what he said to us on the bus before we played,’ Djemba-Djemba told the Sun.
‘He said, ‘if someone needs to die today, we will die. We don’t need to lose that game because I promised to my wife and children we need to go to that final. I need to win the Confederations Cup.”
Foe began to complain of tiredness to Djemba-Djemba and the plan was to urge the coach to substitute him once the ball went out of play.
But after he went to challenge Colombia’s Mario Yepes, he collapsed and the concern from both sides was immediate.
‘I saw Foe fall down and then I saw Mario shouting, “Hey, hey, hey”,’ Djemba-Djemba added.
‘We walked over to him and we knew he was dead straight away.’
Cameroon beat Colombia 1-0 to set up a final against France but given what had happened to Foe, Djemba-Djemba admitted that the rest of the squad were ‘afraid’ to play again so soon.
Then FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, paid a personal visit to the team’s hotel, urging them to play against France in the final, a game they went on to lose 1-0 courtesy of a Thierry Henry goal.
An autopsy on Foe discovered that he had died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary condition that is known to increase the risk of sudden death when undergoing physical exercise.