Interviewing Roger Milla...

    The Cameroonian icon tells tells James Eastham how he went from amateur football to World Cup legend – at age 38...

    Before Italia 90, how did you end up playing on the Reunion islands in the Indian Ocean?
    It wasn’t really a choice. I’d had enough of the professional game in France and went there to stay at a friend’s for a holiday. I ended up staying nine months and playing for one of the local football teams....

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    Tribute to foe

    "In the early hours of the morning on Saturday July 5, a chartered Cameroon Airline jet touched down on the runaway at Yaounde’s Nsimalen International Airport. The plane wasn’t carrying excited tourists or businessmen returning home to Cameroon capital, instead it contained a tragic cargo — the result of a national tragedy which had occurred a few days earlier."

    That was the lead in a story of the now defunct African Soccer magazine of August 2003, in a tribute to the late Marc Vivien Foe.

    Then Cameroon captain Rigobert Song Bahanang was quoted saying : "At half-time on that fateful day, he told us "We have to qualify for the final. When we enter the field we have to give our all, even if it means giving our life." He did not live to play in the final. I feel so bad."

    But then which was that fateful day that Song was talking about? That day was June 26, 2003 as Cameroon faced Colombia in the Confederations Cup final in Paris, France.

    It was in the 72nd minute when Foe collapsed in the centre circle with no other players next to him. Efforts were made to resuscitate him on the pitch and even at the stadium medical centre but the giant midfielder was to die later in what was said to have been a heart problem.

    So as the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off today in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, memories of the mercurial midfielder will come flooding to the minds of African football lovers.

    For the young football fans and also the new converts to the game, Foe was an enigma of the game during his time. He was a colossus in the Indomitable Lions midfield and from Song’s quote above, he was truly indomitable.

    If the former Manchester City, West Ham and Lyon midfielder was alive today, then he could be a very sad man just like Antoine Bell has been with Cameroon’s failure to qualify for the Nations Cup.

    In fact he must be turning in his grave now when he realises that his favourite Cameroon side, a team that he lost his live fighting for will not be among those lining up to win the Nations Cup crown.

    It is also good to know if he would have played in the now super rich Manchester City squad, because unfortunately he had to die before the Gulf dollars were used to buy the now very rich Manchester club.

    City fans will, however, also use the Nations Cup to remember him and for the local City fans who are wondering why they have not seen any of their players in jersey number 23, then that was Foe’s number which was retired after his death.

    Then Manchester City manager Kevin Keegan said: "We are retiring Marc’s number 23 shirt in his honour. He did a terrific job for us, and he was an ambassador for his country."

    Lyon had also retired shirt number 17 before they signed Cameroonian Jean II Makoun, who asked to use the shirt in tribute to the elegant son of the African game.

    By Bismarck Mutahi standardmedia.co.ke