It’s not often you watch someone die on a football pitch. I had that unfortunate experience during the 2003 Confederations Cup in France, not that I knew it at the time.
My wife and I used this tournament as a good excuse to have a quick look around France and Switzerland. It was a piece of cake booking tickets, even though actually getting hold of them was a pain in the arse. Something blew up in the ticketing system, meaning our tickets passed us heading to NZ as we were in the air to Europe. Thankfully we weren’t the only ones with this issue and we got replacements at the grounds.
Anyway, the match schedule had us TGVing from Paris to Lyon to Paris to Geneva & Zurich (not for football) to Lyon to Paris in the course of ten days or so. That was cool. The New Zealand performance at the tournament wasn’t cool and, from memory, there was some rubbish happening about performance money when the team should have been concentrating on playing. At one stage we even fan into a French fan who took genuine pity on us (although that pity didn’t stretch to shouting us a Kronenbourg).
The main football memory from this trip, though, was Marc-Vivien Foe dying on the football field in front of us during the semi-final at Lyon’s Stade Gerland. We didn’t know it at the time, of course. The match announcer wasn’t stupid enough to announce it. It just looked like Foe fell over and then had several medical and stretcher dudes come on, give him the once over then take him away. No-one in the stands really thought any more of it. Just another injury? We went on our way.
A little later it was clear something was seriously wrong. We were in a pub watching the other semi-final and saw Thierry Henry mouth the word ‘Foe?!’ in the build up. Clearly the word had got out by then. We didn’t have web browsing phones back then so had to wait a little longer to have it confirmed.
Our reaction? “Wow, we saw someone die. How crazy is that?” And then, seriously, “I guess it’s your round.” Rather harshly, it’s not quite the same when you don’t know the guy. Human nature.
Cameroon actually won the match and made the final, which they lost against the hosts. The final was more of a Foe benefit than anything else, as you’d expect. Not many of the players were actually all that keen to play. In fact some even suggested the match shouldn’t be played out of respect. It was and it was won with an Henry golden goal (remember those?).
Was that really nearly ten years ago?