Football

Former Newcastle star Tiote's death being investigated

Ex-Newcastle player Tiote dies after collapsing in training with Chinese club; cause of death being probed

Boots were an unattainable luxury for Cheick Tiote when he started playing football on the streets of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast at the age of 10.

Tiote, who went on to play in two World Cups for his country and become a Premier League regular, claimed he did not even see a pair for five years after taking up the sport.

"I played barefoot," the midfielder recalled to reporters in 2010. "With bare feet I actually had better contact with the ball, and it helped me develop."

Tiote "suddenly fainted" at training and died later in hospital on Monday, his Chinese club Beijing Enterprises said yesterday, describing his death as "tragic" and praising his skills and attitude.

The 30-year-old had joined the second-tier Chinese League One club only in February from England's Newcastle United.

The club's general manager Yang Junsheng said that authorities were still investigating the cause of death.

"Tiote has made outstanding contributions to the club and earned high praise from his coaches and teammates for his superb football skills and professional attitude," the club said, adding that they have been in touch with his family

One of 10 siblings, Tiote's nascent talent was spotted by scouts from Anderlecht and, in 2005, at the age of 19, he signed a three-year contract with the Belgian club.

Tiote's remarkable trajectory took him into a Champions League debut the following year, but injuries hampered his progress and he was farmed out for a loan spell at Roda JC in Holland.

In 2008, Tiote moved to FC Twente, linking up with former Middlesbrough and England boss Steve McClaren, who convinced the player that his next destination should be England.

Tiote's successful stint at Twente coincided with the club winning their first Eredivisie title in 2010, the same year in which Tiote would also make his international breakthrough, featuring in all the Ivory Coast's World Cup games in South Africa.

BECOMING A MAGPIE

His reputation as a combative, ball-playing midfielder attracted the attention of Newcastle, for whom he signed in a £3.5-million (S$6.2m) deal in August 2010 - a deal which was extended to 6½ years the following summer.

Despite numerous disciplinary issues, including a sending-off in the 2012 North-east Derby against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light for a late challenge on Steven Fletcher, Tiote continued to impress.

He stepped in to captain the club for the first time in 2013, but became increasingly hindered by knee and hamstring injuries, not to mention persistent rumours of interest elsewhere.

A devout Muslim, Tiote made headlines in 2014 when it was revealed he had married a second wife in Abidjan, despite still living with his first wife and their two children in the Northumberland village of Ponteland.

Having found himself increasingly on the margins of the first team, it was little surprise when he left the Magpies in February to sign a lucrative deal with Beijing Enterprises.

But he will be fondly remembered on Tyneside, not least for his solitary goal in 2011 - a stunning equaliser to seal a 4-4 draw against Arsenal, after trailing 4-0.

McClaren said that Tiote was the "kind of player everyone wants in their team", telling the BBC that he knew the world was at peace with itself when he saw the player smile.

"At Newcastle, if (Papiss) Cisse and Cheick were smiling, I knew the world was okay," said McClaren, who managed Newcastle from 2015-16.

"He was a ferocious competitor on the field, but had a beautiful smile off it. He was the kind of player that everyone wants in their team."

Ivory Coast teammate Gervinho, who plays for China's Hebei China Fortune, described Tiote as a "warrior" and a "champion".

"May your soul rest in peace," he said on Twitter.

Brazil's Oscar, now at Shanghai SIPG after moving from Chelsea, tweeted: "Rest in peace, Cheick Tiote. My family prays for your family."

- WIRE SERVICES

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