The incredible story of Rigobert Song, the footballer who went from being declared dead to qualifying Cameroon for the Qatar 2022 World Cup

In October 2016, Cameroonian coach and former soccer player Rigobert Song faced death for the second time.

Song was an undisputed starter.

In the 72nd minute, Marc-Vivien Foé, who was playing for Manchester City, collapsed in the middle of the field. Despite the efforts of his colleagues and first responders, Foe was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

From the grass, Song saw his partner die in the most unexpected way

Thirteen years later, he would be this time who would see death up close after suffering a brain aneurysm.

“I don’t quite remember what happened. It was never quite clear to me how close I came to dying on that occasion,” Song told the BBC.

And although they even officially announced his death on social networks and in some media, currently Song prepares to lead his country in the World Cup in Qatar 2022, where he hopes to surpass the achievements of Italy 90, where Cameroon reached the quarterfinals.

“It was a difficult situation. But now I am living in the present, I am not living in the past. The important thing is that I am in good health, I am fine, ”she explained.

A past that includes having been one of the references of his team and his fight against life and death.

And that led him to this present as a coach of his country.

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Song hugs his friend Samuel Eto’o after qualifying for Qatar 2022 in March this year.

Captain Song

Rigobert Song was born on July 1, 1976 in Nkenglicock, a city in southern Cameroon.

Soon his defensive qualities were seen and he made his debut in Europe: at the age of 18 he was part of the professional squad of Metz in France.

And his talent also made him a place among the “Indomitable Lions”, as the Cameroonian team is known: he was called to be part of the team that was in the 1994 World Cup.

And he was a longtime wearer of the green jersey, which He also dressed in the World Cups in France 98 and South Africa 2010.

Shortly after playing in the World Cup in South Africa – where Cameroon finished in last place – Song, who had also been part of teams such as Liverpool and Leeds in England, announced his retirement from professional football.

And he began his career as a technician. In February 2016, he was appointed to manage a team made up only of players born in Cameroon.

But health would soon play a trick on him. On October 2 of that year, Song broke down in his home and was rushed to the main hospital in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.

The diagnosis was delicate: brain aneurysm that had caused a stroke. Due to the seriousness of the condition, the doctors had to induce him into a coma.

marc vivien foe

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Eto’o and Song hold a picture of their partner Marc Vivien Foe, who was killed in a match in 2003.

“I didn’t know what was happening to me. She was totally ignorant. I didn’t even know I was fighting between life and death,” Song told the BBC in 2017.

Cameroon was immediately put on alert: Song was considered a national team legend and his state of health attracted the attention of many in the country.

And on social networks different reports announced his death. In fact, various media not only in Cameroon but also in Nigeria gave the “sad news”.

“Rigobert Song is dead”was shared on social networks and various digital media.

However, Song, though delicate, he was far from dead. Two days after being admitted to the hospital, the former captain came out of a coma and announced that he had not died.

“When I came back (from the coma) is when I found out what had really happened”he explained.

And he couldn’t help but remember what he had already experienced with his partner Marc-Vivien Foé.

“We think that people in sports, soccer players, are protected. But we are more exposed, ”he told the BBC.

“Having a stroke is not a disease. It is something that happens because you have something internal and then you do things that cause it to precipitate, ”he noted.

National selection

After leaving the hospital, Song was sent to Paris to continue his recovery. A few months later he returned to the courts.

From there he began to direct the youth teams of Cameroon and held other positions within the Football Federation of his country.


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Rigobert Song played for teams like Liverpool and Leeds.

At the beginning of 2022, Cameroon was the host of the Africa Cup of Nations. The expectation was high because the “Indomitable Lions” have been one of the teams with the highest number of titles (four) and, with this story on their shoulders, they hoped to keep the trophy.

However, in an irregular performance they only managed third place and that led to coach Toni Conceicao being fired.

He was replaced by Song, who had to face the playoff matches against Algeria in March of this year. Finally, in two agonizing matches, Cameroon achieved a place in Qatar 2022, after failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

Perhaps his near-death experience will help the coach in his methods for the Cameroon players to achieve the dream of becoming the first African team to win a World Cup.

“If I have one piece of advice to give to others, it would be: ‘Live your life!’ But be careful, you have to take precautions, for example you may have a headache… go to the doctor. Also in life you need calm, a normal life, not a lot of pressure.

“Take it easy,” adds the Cameroonian legend.

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