BEIJING • Cheick Tiote's Chinese club said the cause of his death was still under investigation yesterday after the Ivory Coast international collapsed in training and died.
Tributes poured in for the former Newcastle midfielder, who moved to China's second-tier Beijing Enterprises for an undisclosed fee in February after seven years in England's north-east.
Beijing Enterprises described how the 30-year-old "suddenly fainted" during training on Monday and was rushed to hospital, where he died.
The club's general manager Yang Junsheng told reporters that the authorities were still trying to determine the cause of death.
"We will remember the spirit that he brought us and his football ideals," he added.
As the football fraternity paid tribute to the popular, hard-tackling midfielder, a group of fans laid a bouquet of white flowers on the pitch at Beijing's National Olympic Sports Centre stadium.
Ivory Coast team-mate Gervinho, who plays for China's Hebei China Fortune, described Tiote as a "warrior" and a "champion".
Brazil's Oscar, now at Shanghai SIPG after moving from Chelsea, tweeted: "Rest in peace, Cheick Tiote. My family prays for your family."
Tiote was well known in English football circles after his stint with Newcastle, including six Premier League campaigns before their relegation last year. He is perhaps best remembered for his left-foot volley from 25 yards to secure a 4-4 draw with Arsenal in 2011.
He was also part of the Ivory Coast squad who delivered the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations after a 23-year drought.
Newcastle said in a statement that they were "devastated" about Tiote while Alan Pardew, who managed him at Newcastle, said he "loved" the player.
"From the moment I arrived at Newcastle, Cheick was a wonderful presence around the dressing room and his performances on the field often defied belief," he said in a statement, quoted by independent.ie.
Tiote was capped 52 times by Ivory Coast and was in their squads for both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He was a devout Muslim who was known to fast during Ramadan.
"Cheick was one of the best we had in terms of his attitude," Newcastle legend Peter Beardsley told BBC Radio 5 live.
Earlier this year he became one of a number of players - including several high-profile, lavishly paid acquisitions - to move to Chinese teams.
Former England manager Steve McClaren, who managed him at Newcastle and Dutch side Twente, said Tiote had always wanted to make the money that would allow him to look after his family.
He was one of 10 children who like many of his Ivory Coast team-mates, grew up in abject poverty and did not possess a pair of boots until he was 15.