London (AFP) – The agent of the late Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote on Wednesday called for the media to cease making unsubstantiated claims about the reasons for his death.
The 52-time capped star — a member of the Ivory Coast squad that ended a 23-year drought in winning the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations — died after fainting during training with second division side Beijing Enterprises on June 5. He was 30 years of age.
His death shocked the football world, reverberating in England, where he played for seven years at Newcastle United before joining the Beijing team in February.
However, with his body being flown home to the Ivory Coast — after an emotional farewell held at a funeral home in China on Tuesday — Emanuele Palladino issued a statement to Press Association Sport calling on the speculation over why he died to end out of sympathy for his family’s feelings.
“There is increasing speculation regarding the circumstances and reasons behind Cheick Tiote’s death with many inaccuracies being printed in the press on this subject,” Palladino said.
“This has been upsetting for Cheick’s family and all parties involved at what is already a difficult time.
“We appreciate Cheick was a much-loved personality. His club Beijing Enterprises are being co-operative at this time and when we have official information surrounding his death we will give a statement on behalf of his family.
“Until then we cannot comment further however we thank you for all your continued support and well wishes.”
Tiote’s body is expected to arrive back in the Ivory Coast on Thursday and more tributes are planned for the player.
The national team returned to Abidjan on Monday after an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying defeat by Guinea and presented their condolences to the player’s family.
Tiote was one of 10 children, who like many of his Ivory Coast team-mates, grew up in abject poverty and didn’t possess a pair of boots until he was 15, but whose lucrative move to China gave him the opportunity to help his family financially.
“It was his dream to play in China and I was so delighted for him when it happened,” said former England manager Steve McClaren, who coached him twice, once at Dutch side Twente where they won the 2010 league title and then at Newcastle (2015/16).
“He earned money to look after his family.
“He loved playing football to look after his family. All the relatives, uncles, aunts, grandparents, they all relied on him to look after them.”