Cheick Tiote

Even In Death: Why The World Can’t Forget Cheick Tiote

The football universe was once again rocked by tragedy, Monday morning, after it surfaced that Ivorian midfielder, Cheick Tiote, had passed away on the pitch. Tiote, who spent a bulk of his playing career at Newcastle United, lost consciousness during a training session with his Chinese club, Beijing Enterprises, before being declared dead moments later in the hospital.

Born in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire, Tiote began his playing career at local side FC Bibo in 1998, before being spotted by Anderlecht where he spent three seasons. He then joined Dutch side FC Twente in 2008 and ended his European sojourn at Newcastle.

Tributes have continued to pour in for the midfielder who would have clocked 31 in a couple of weeks time.

"It is with deep sadness I confirm that Cheick Tiote sadly passed away earlier today after collapsing in training," said his intermediary, Emanuele Palladino. "We cannot say any more at the moment and we request that his family's privacy is respected at this difficult time. We ask for all your prayers."

In honour of the former Magpies star, we reflect on his most outstanding attributes we can't seem to forget in a hurry.

1 - Brutal tackles

As a defensive midfielder, Tiote was distinct in his style of play. Powerful, destructive, he was a wrecking ball of a midfielder. Maybe reckless at times, nevertheless, the Ivorian was a fan favourite owing to his aggressive, combative and no-nonsense approach. He wasn't afraid of making tackles and did it with reckless abandon. And when he's asked about a challenge after the game, his response was always the same. A shy smile, a shuffle of the feet and then a mumbled: “Football is a contact sport”.

2 - Exceptional vibe on the pitch

Not only was Tiote, a good marker of the ball, he was equally an unusual character who radiates an unimaginable amount of energy each time he plays. During his seven-year spell at Newcastle, the mood in the camp was irrelevant, so was his form, or the time of the year. Nothing changed the way he played, nobody could tell him to slow down; nobody could tell him not to make a tackle. From the start to the end of each game, he maintains the same tempo and never takes his foot off the pedal. Not only in games; his attitude was almost the same during training. No wonder his own teammates were always wary of going into a 50-50 challenge with him. But that didn't matter much, they still loved him.

3 - Countless match bans

Tiote's combative style of play meant he was constantly going to get into the black books of referees. And it didn't take him too long to exhibit this trait to his new fans in England, receiving his first marching orders barely three months after joining Newcastle in 2011. That continued throughout his first two seasons at the club. In fact, he picked up 25 yellow cards from 50 league games in both seasons, a return of one yellow card every two games. Meaning he sat out about five games due to accumulated cautions. Persistent injuries blighted his involvement in subsequent seasons which in return lessened his suspension.

4 - Awful goalscoring record

He may have been tough, rugged and strong but Tiote was soft when it came to finishing. Just like other orthodox defensive midfielders, the ex-Ivory Coast star was perhaps contented with dislodging opposition play and never seemed to bother about the scoreline. He struck just twice prior to joining Newcastle and found the net only once in 161 appearances for the Magpies. And despite his paltry sole strike for the Toon Army, Tiote is best remembered for that goal which capped a remarkable comeback against Arsenal in 2011. With the ball dropping to him outside the area, looping through the air before he moved forward, the Ivorian adjusted his body shape, then caught it crisply with his left foot to send it whistling into the bottom corner. It was a stunning equaliser in a sensational game in which his team had trailed by four at half-time.

About the Author Toby Prince

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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