The body of former Newcastle midfielder, Cheick Tiote, came home on Thursday to hundreds of adoring fans in Ivory Coast’s main Abidjan airport.
A small memorial had been held before he left with friends and former teammates in Beijing where he collapsed whilst training at his club Beijing Enterprises.
The 30-year-old, who joined the second-tier Chinese side in February after seven years at England’s Newcastle United, collapsed during training and died in hospital last week.
Former international players Didier Otokore and Youssouf Fofana were there praising him for his strength and shocked at his young death.
Herve Renard, the Ivory Coast coach who brought the national team the 2015 Cup of African Nations victory, said he was the best kind of player for a trainer, a solid team player.
Tiote made more than 150 appearances for Newcastle, with his only goal for the club a memorable equaliser against Arsenal as his team battled back to draw 4-4 at St James’ Park in February 2011.
He was an African Nations Cup winner with the Ivory Coast in 2015 although he missed the final through injury, and he played in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.