I have not lost my memory or gone mad. I am aware that Cameroon did not qualify for the African Cup of Nations that kicks-off this Saturday in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. However, there are a handful of players originally from Cameroon who are representing other nations at this tournament.
The bulk of the ex-Cameroonian contingent will be defending the colours of co-hosts Equatorial Guinea. Five members of their 23-man squad — Narcisse Ekanga (midfield), Thierry Fidjeu (forward), Douwala Ellong (forward), Raul Juan Maximo Eyama (midfield) and Achille Pensy (goalkeeper) — hail from Cameroon.
Ekanga, who plays his club football for TP Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had played for Cameroon at U-17 and U-20 levels but with so many central midfielders ahead of him in the pecking order, it is no surprise that he was willing to switch nationalities.
The young goalkeeper Pensy also featured for the U-17 Lions at some point in his young career while Thierry Fidjeu waited in vain for a call to bolster the Indomitable Lions attack before settling for the Nzalang.
There’ll certainly be families jubilating in Douala, Bafoussam and Yaounde should the Nzalang Nacional score a victory over the Knights of the Mediterranean (formerly known as ‘Greens’) of Libya in the tournament’s opening game.
Nzalang Nacional fans would surely be hoping that these Equato-Cameroonians would be as successful for their team as Lauren Etame Mayer, born in Cameroon to Equato-Guinean parents. He played for the Indomitable Lions between 1998 and 2002 and won two African Cup of Nations and an Olympic Gold Medal.
It should be noted, however, that the Equatorial Guinea team also features players originally from Liberia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. There are also a few ex-Brazilians, as well. All are naturalised and should bag home the $1 million promised by the son of the country’s President, if they can win that opening game!
William Tondji Ngounou will be representing Niger. He is a striker who plays professional football in Sweden. He was born in Cameroon but left the country at the age of 10 to live in Niger with his Cameroonian parents. He has since opted to play for the Mena du Niger.
His national team mates include goalkeeper Dauada Kassaly and midfielders Abdoul-Karim Lancina and Idrissa Saidou who play their club football in Cameroon at Cotonsport Garoua.
Niger held their pre-tourney training camp in Cameroon. They played a host of friendly games with local clubs and Cameroon’s national selection team of players based at home (or those who have yet to cross the border to play for Equatorial Guinea!).
Two other countries camped in Cameroon before the competition — Botswana and Burkina Faso (Their stay at the Kadji Sports Academy makes them a little Cameroonian, no?).
Burkina Faso could even have fielded another ex-Cameroonian in Herve Zengue who was surprisingly left out of the Stallions squad. Zengue, who is married to a Burkinabe citizen, played for the Stallions in two qualifying matches against Namibia.
But the southern African nation claimed was not eligible to represent Burkina Faso and asked for the West Africans to be disqualified. The matter was only recently decided against Namibia by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Sadly, by that time, coach Paulo Duarte had decided not to pick Zengue for the tournament.
Gef’s Football Club will provide tactical previews and analysis of some of the games at this tournament.