Should a young man actually DIE for a Game - This is a sad story of how misunderstood HCM is and just how dangerous this disease can be. Lisa

SOCCER NOTES

Medical screening for Foe questioned


By Frank Dell'Apa, Globe Staff, 7/1/2003

Some of Marc-Vivien Foe's last words were expressed at halftime of the Cameroon-Colombia game last Thursday in Lyon, France. ''Even if it means dying, we must win this match,'' Foe told his teammates.



A half hour later, Foe was pronounced dead after collapsing on the field. There is much speculation about the cause of the death, and certainly more than one factor was involved. FIFA president Sepp Blatter strongly denied any connection to drugs. The heat (temperatures in the low 90s for a 6 p.m. start) and overworked schedule are partly to blame, though Foe had nearly five days rest in between games.

Certainly, the Confederations Cup highlights the overblown international schedule. Manchester City, Foe's team in the Premier League, is scheduled to return to training next week. England's club schedule concluded in May, but Spain's La Liga continued until last weekend. Then there is the Intertoto Cup competition, a qualifier for the UEFA Cup, which started last month and continues into late August.

But, more likely to blame for Foe's death is the exploitative nature of European soccer and the lack of medical scrutiny. Foe likely was not screened for heart problems and, if he was, the diagnosis was ignored. This raises some serious questions about how African players are going to be considered in the future.

Foe apparently was detected to have an enlarged heart -- hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- when he came to West Ham United, but was cleared because the condition was considered ''normal'' for an African athlete.

''Initially, it seemed that Marc's enlarged heart could present a problem,'' former West Ham manager Harry Redknapp told News of the World. ''But when we sent him to one specialist, they told us that Foe's condition is absolutely normal and common among African athletes, and that because of that we could proceed with the signing of the contract.''

The stakes are high for those determining the fates of players such as Foe. FC Lens brought Foe to France from Canon Yaounde in 1994. After winning the French championship in '98, Foe went to West Ham on transfer worth about $7 million. A year later, Olympique Lyon paid about $10 million for Foe, won the 2002 title, and loaned him to Manchester City.

But physical examination standards differ. Italian officials would have rejected Foe, as they did Nwankwo Kanu after the 1998 World Cup. Ajax doctors cleared Kanu after he arrived from Nigeria, but when he was purchased by Inter, in a routine exam an Italian doctor detected a valve problem that likely would have been fatal. Kanu went to Cleveland for surgery, then to California for a year of recovery and rehabilitation.

The Italian club Treviso last week rejected two players from the Ivory Coast, Yussouf Kone and Adama Niambele, for similar reasons, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

''Considering Redknapp's declarations, Foe would not have played in Italy,'' said Alessandro Zenari, the agent who brought Kone and Niambele to Italy. ''In Italy the controls are very strict and they take no risks.''

Real challenge

The person who hired Carlos Queiroz to coach the MetroStars in 1996 and then to analyze and make recommendations about the structure of the US Soccer Federation in '98 was certainly on the right track. Queiroz last week was named manager of Real Madrid, one of the most complicated and demanding of coaching positions in the world.

Winning is not the only concern of Real Madrid, which always wins. Vicente Del Bosque guided Real Madrid to the Spanish championship and was a Luis Figo penalty kick miss away from advancing to the Champions League final, yet was fired. Queiroz will win with Real Madrid, but the question is how much will he win and will he be able to stay in control of the most ego-driven team in the world.

Open door policy FIFA has opened the door to some potentially controversial maneuvering by declaring that players can change national teams, despite having played for another country's junior team.

This means the Brazilian Diego, who is being counted on for Brazil's 2006 World Cup squad, could perform for Italy, pending the acquisition of an Italian passport. Closer to home, US prodigy Freddy Adu could be recruited by Ghana, his native country, which is eager to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

These are long-shot examples. But several players of African descent who have been involved in France's national team programs at the junior level are expected to repatriate.

The precedent was set on a ruling regarding Tim Cahill, who is of Australian-Samoan descent. Cahill, 23, who now plays for Millwall, had been recruited to perform for Samoa's Under-20 team as a 14-year-old when Cahill's father took the family to Samoa to visit an ill grandmother. In 2000, Australia placed Cahill on the national team for the Sydney Olympics, but FIFA negated the move.

Revolution trio named The Revolution's Adin Brown, Steve Ralston, and Taylor Twellman were named to the US team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which begins at Gillette Stadium July 12. The US meets El Salvador in its opener, then Martinique July 14, followed by the quarterfinals July 19 at Gillette Stadium. Brown was called up by coach Bruce Arena for the US-Mexico game in Houston last month but has yet to perform for the senior team; Ralston scored his first US goal in 10 appearances in a 4-0 victory over Canada in January in Fort Lauderdale; Twellman has six caps, but performed only briefly as a substitute in the Confederations Cup because of illness.