Former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tioté has died aged 30 after collapsing during training in China.
Tioté is the third young African footballer to die unexpectedly while training this year. Back in April, former Gabon international Moise Brou Apanga died from a suspected heart attack. The 35-year-old collapsed during a training session with his Gabonese club FC 105 Libreville.
And then Ugo Ehiogu, former England and Aston Villa defender, also died in April at the age of 44 after suffering a cardiac arrest at Tottenham’s training centre.
A statement from Newcastle United said: ‘We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of Cheick Tioté at the age of just 30. The thoughts of everyone at Newcastle United are with Cheick’s family, friends, team-mates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented.’
Newcastle manager Rafa Benítez said: ‘It is with great sadness that I have this afternoon learned of Cheick’s death. In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and above all, a great man. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time.’
Tributes have been pouring in from the football community:
How I'll always remember him. As someone you'd want in the trenches alongside you. RIP Cheiky 💔 https://t.co/crESQc0mpC
— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) June 5, 2017
Goodnight brother, You will be missed. My heart goes out to his family. Gone too soon #RIPcheiktiote
— Papiss Demba Cisse (@CissePapiss) June 5, 2017
I am speechless and so incredibly sad. Cheick Tioté was one of the nicest and toughest teammates I have ever had. Rest in peace brother.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) June 5, 2017
Dreadful news that Cheick Tioté has passed away. So young. So tragic.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 5, 2017
Shocked to hear the news that former @NUFC midfielder Cheick Tiote has passed away.. thoughts & prayers with his family & friends!
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 5, 2017
We'll never forget you, Cheick. ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/c8aO6EyW5w
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) June 5, 2017
The death of Tioté has raised some debate and questions regarding the health of African footballers. There has been speculation that many African players are older than they claim – in an effort to play for an international team and stay in the game. Sadly, the stress and intense training on the body can prove fatal.
Others believe that there is a genetic pre-disposition connecting black men to heart diseases and it appears to be amplified in footballers. But the question is: why is this only happening to young African men who play football and not in any other intensive sports?
There has been no official comments on the cause of Tioté’s death at the time of writing.