On June 26, 2003, I turned on the television at around 7:45pm to watch the build-up to the France v Turkey Confederations Cup match.
I had been out during the day, meaning I hadn’t had time to catch the result of the tournament’s other semi-final between Cameroon and Colombia earlier that day, and was hoping to watch some highlights before the second fixture of the day kicked off in Paris.
When I began watching the broadcast it had already been running for a few minutes, but instead of highlights the presenters were engaged in a discussion about Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foé.
They did not refer to him by name immediately (although they may well have done earlier in the programme), but as a supporter of one of his former clubs – West Ham United – I quickly ascertained that he was the subject of discussion by virtue of the mention of his time in England with West Ham and Manchester City, as well as allusions to his parent club Lyon, to whom he was set to return for the 2003/04 season following a loan spell with the latter.
However, something seemed not right. There was an unnatural reliance on the past tense, as if there was a finality to which I was not party. Soon it dawned that something terrible had happened, and sure enough anchor Steve Scott would then turn to face the camera in the way one only does when reporting sombre news.
Foé had suffered heart failure during Cameroon’s match, and died later that afternoon in the medical centre of Lyon’s Stade Gerland.
There followed a number of iconic images which will stay with me forever, most notably the tears of Foé’s former team-mate and French international goalkeeper Grégory Coupet as La Marseillaise rang out across the Stade de France.
He had been told the news shortly before kick-off, and this was the first opportunity he was given to stand motionless and conversationless, alone with his thoughts and away from the pressure-cooker of a dressing-room where coach Jacques Santini was obliged to proceed with a motivational team-talk welcomed by no-one, and bearable for no reason other than its distracting effect.
Some people remember where they were when they learned of Princess Diana or Michael Jackson passing on. For me you can replace those names with that of Marc-Vivien Foé.
On Tuesday morning, many Major League Soccer Fans – particularly those of FC Dallas – will have felt similar emotions when the news broke that the club’s former player and current announcer Bobby Rhine had suffered a fatal heart attack while on vacation in Florida.
The cause of death is by no means the only similarity between the two cases. Like Foé, Rhine was seemingly universally loved both on and off the field.
While not a hometown hero in the traditional sense, the University of Connecticut graduate was certainly an adopted son of the city of Dallas. He joined Dallas Burn straight out of college and remained at the club for more than a decade as it metamorphosed into the team thousands now know and love as FC Dallas.
During his time in Texas he made more than 200 appearances, each demonstrating as much passion and commitment as the last, and was rewarded for his efforts with 23 Major League Soccer goals. This was despite happily filling in in defence when it was necessary, even though his attacking instincts were plain to see.
He always played with a smile on his face, and that positive attitude continued into retirement. Rhine made no secret of his pain when it looked like retirement might force him to leave the club he loved, and therefore jumped at the chance to remain part of the team by commentating on their matches along with former Dallas defender Steve Jolly.
That enthusiasm was emblematic of a man who simply saw commentary as a new opportunity to work hard at something and turn it into a speciality, and a love for the job rubbed off on the players who were always comfortable discussing team matters with someone who for many was a former team-mate.
In the last few days the tributes have been pouring in for Bobby Rhine, but it is telling that the emotions shared are not the product of a reactive outpouring. Rather, people were proud to pay him the same tribute, both privately and publicly, while he was still alive. His honesty and geniality on and off the pitch won him plenty of fans, and the overwhelming sentiment is one of shock more than anything else.
It is such a travesty that Rhine will not be around to see Dallas close in on a second successive MLS Cup Final appearance, in the midst of some of the most entertaining football the fans have seen in some time. Still, it remains fitting that much of the current success stems from the good form of Brek Shea and Daniel Hernández.
Shea has risen through the ranks and spent the entirety of his career at Pizza Hut Park, while captain and Texas native Hernández has admitted to spending his whole career waiting patiently to play in the Lone Star State.
Rhine would undoubtedly be proud to see the duo hold aloft the MLS Cup trophy come November, and there will be plenty hoping the club can pay him a fitting tribute.Bobby Rhine, FC Dallas, Marc-Vivien Foe, MLS