Tough to get over a team-mate's death, says Djemba-Djemba

It’s been a sobering few days for people involved in sport following the death of Australian cricketer Phil Hughes.  Since then, many people have debated about the psychological aspects of the incident. Many believe that time, like it often does, will ultimately heal the blows.

Eric Djemba-Djemba, a former Manchester United player and Cameroon international, thinks differently. Djemba-Djemba was playing alongside Marc-Vivien Foe in midfield when the latter collapsed and died during Cameroon’s semifinal against France in the 2003 edition of the Confederations Cup.

“Life cannot be normal again,” he says, during a visit to a school here as part of the launch of PSG’s Elite Training Academy in India. “Because you always have it in your head. I played with him for a long time, many many matches in the national team. He was like our big brother. And now we have to live life without him.”

He also paints a vivid description of the dressing room following that semifinal. “We went back to the dressing room afterwards and Roger Milla was crying. Everybody was surprised and we found out he had died. It was very difficult to take it,” he explains.

He also draws parallels of the incident with Hughes’ death, which he is aware of. “(It was) very difficult, because you're always thinking about it. You're thinking it could be you tomorrow. It could happen to you. It's life. He was there in a bad moment in a bad place. It's the same with (Hughes). We heard about it (Hughes). We saw on TV, how the ball hit him. After that we heard he was dead. It's very difficult for the family, the sport and the team-mates.”

With the conversation being steered to more cheery topics, Djemba Djemba spoke about Cristiano Ronaldo (the two of them made their United debut the same match): “For me there was no doubt about that (was he destined to be a star).

“When you saw him walk, run, work on his fitness every day, you knew that this kid wanted to make it to the big league and he did it. I'm so proud of him,” he says in that quintessential African accent.

Djemba-Djemba, who plays for Chennaiyin in the Indian Super League, is surprised by the attendance in games. “We didn’t expect this kind of support. We are very surprised. Many people are coming to the grounds. They're singing from the first second to the end,” he signs off.

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