Cameroon’s Joel Matip scored on Sunday (21 August) for his club in the German Bundesliga but that hasn’t made headlines in a weekend where the name Cameroon has mainly been associated to Samuel Eto’o's big money move to Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkal.
Eto’o will certainly keep making the headlines in the coming week, as he finally signs the contract that would see him earn 20 million euros and become the world’s best-paid footballer. But we prefer to focus on the Cameroon internationals who have been in action across Europe.
Joel Matip contributed to Shalke 04′s fantastic come-back from two goals down to beat Mainz 4-2 on Sunday. Matip started as one of the two central midfielders in Shalke’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He scored the third goal for Shalke at the 81st minute of play. Cameroon’s head coach Javier Clemente who has consistently refused to select Matip says the youngster is not mobile enough and is more for the future than the present.
Eric Maxim Choupo Moting came on as a second half substitute for Mainz but he was not able to repeat last week’s performance where he scored for his new club. However, Cameroon national team coaches should be happy to see him having regular game time.
Marcel Ndjeng started and played 83 minutes for Augusburg in their 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim. Ndjeng has not been called up for the Lions since the 1-1 draw with the DRC in October 2010.
Nicolas Nkoulou played the full 90 minutes at the heart of Olympic Marseille’s defence in their goalless draw with AS St.Etienne. He was calm and assured and made some good long passes to his strike partners.
Henri Bedimo started at leftback for Montpellier when they beat Rennes 4-0 to go top of the French Ligue 1 standings. Georges Mandjeck started in central midfield for Rennes and played the whole game. Mandjeck last featured for the Lions as a second-half substitute against Senegal in Dakar last March.
Moukandjo Bile started his first game for Nancy this weekend after a move from Monaco at the start of the week. Nancy lost 1-2 to Sochaux and Moukandjo was substituted after an hour. He was replaced by another Cameroonian – Alo’o Efoulou who has not been selected for the Lions for about 18 months.
Lille beat Caen 2-1 with Aurelien Chedjou playing at right-back for the French Champions. Chedjou has been playing in central midfield for Cameroon since the World Cup in South Africa but normally plays as a central defender for Lille. For how long would he be deployed at right-back and how would that affect his game?
Landry Nguemo started as the sole holding midfielder in Bordeaux’s diamond formation as they drew 1-1 with Auxerre. Gaetan Bong played at left-back for Valencienne in their 1-2 defeat away to Paris St. Germain.
Henri Bienvenue Tsama came on at half-time but could not save his Young Boys Berne side from a 2-0 defeat in the hands of FC Thun. Chris Mbondi, U-20 international, came on as a 49th minute substitute for FC Sion as they beat Lausanne Sport 2-0.
Somen Tchoyi started again as a second striker for West Bromwich Albion against Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday. The Cameroonian worked very hard but his team were beaten 2-1 by their West London hosts. Tchoyi was substituted after 75 minutes.
George Elokobi came on as a very late substitute (90th minute) for Wolverhampton Wanderers as they beat Fulham 2-0.
Aston Villa defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-1 but Cameroon’s Jean Makoun watched from the bench throughout the game. Alex Song started his 3 match ban after stamping on Joey Barton last week and was thus absent from Arsenal’s 0-2 defeat to Liverpool.
This Monday Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong’s Tottenham Hotspur travel to Manchester to face the Premier League Champions. (We’ll update once the game is over).
[An audio review of Cameroonian performances in Europe is available of you click here]
Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the Cameroon international Somen Tchoyi for giving the reigning English Champions a tough test in their 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion (WBA) on Sunday.
“The lad Tchoyi gave us a bit of trouble,” Ferguson said after the match.
The 1.90m Tchoyi, playing as a support striker, worked the United defence for long spells in the game as he tussled with central defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and imposed himself physically.
He started the move that led to WBA’s equaliser by overpowering United’s young Brazilian fullback Fabio to recover lost possession at the edge of the Champions’ 18-yard. His strike partner Shane Long then finished the move with a shot that should have been stopped on another day by United’s keeper, David De Gea.
Tchoyi also impressed with his good –short and long range – passing and his willingness to take on defenders using speed and tricky dribbles.
The tactics used by Roy Hodgson, the WBA manager, allowed the Cameroonian to drop into his natural central midfield position and come from deep to occupy the space between the lone striker and the other midfielders in order to dictate play. He was also free to go wide to whip in crosses.
The former Liverpool manager praised both his attackers for putting pressure on United and regretted that they lost the game.
“I thought his (Long’s) performance in general was very good as was Tchoyi’s,” Hodgson said after the game.
It’s unfortunate that most Indomitable Lions managers have hardly thought of playing Tchoyi as an attacking central midfielder or a second striker which are (in my opinion) the positions where he is most effective. He is often used as a winger or wide attacker (in a front three).
Song Stamps Reputation
The former Union Douala player’s performance certainly paints a better picture of Cameroonian footballers than the temperamental display from Alex Song for Arsenal in their goalless draw with Newcastle United on Saturday.
Song played admirably well as a midfield sweeper in-front of Arsenal’s back-four but for some reason decided to stamp on Joey Barton after a challenge. Barton may not be most people’s best friend (as confirmed by his role in the confrontation that led to Ivory Coast’s Gervinho being sent-off) but there was absolutely no excuse for Song to stamp on the Englishman’s leg.
The defensive midfielder who hasn’t played for Cameroon since the 2010 World Cup may be suspended if the English Football Association decides to use video evidence against him.
Meanwhile, George Elokobi came on as a late substitute for Wolverhampton Wanderers in their 2-1 away win over Blackburn Rovers.
The other Cameroonians operating in the English Premier League were absent on the first day of the new season. Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto could not play because Tottenham’s fixture against Everton was postponed following rioting in London. Jean Makoun was left on the bench by Aston Villa in the Birmigham club’s goalless draw with Fulham.
*Adds news of Assou-Ekotto and Matip’s selection
George Elokobi, the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender, has been included in Cameroon’s squad to face Senegal on 26 March in Dakar. He is part of three-man additional list that includes Joel Matip and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The list was published late Friday in Yaounde.
Elokobi recently told the British media about his deep wish to be called up to represent his native land has seen his efforts on the field pay-off.
He replaces the injured Gaetan Bong who was on the initial 23-man team summoned to camp Javier Clemente, the Spain-born head coach of Cameroon.
Many observers were surprised that Clemente had picked Bong in the first place, as it was well known that the defender has been out of action for a month.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham Hotspur, who is probably Cameroon’s best left-back at the moment is also called up to defend his national colours.
A national team insider told Gef’s Football Club that Clemente is punishing Assou-Ekotto for perceived indiscipline but it now seems public and government pressure has swayed the Spaniard (see separate story on Gef’s Football Club).
Roger Milla, Cameroon’s football legend, had taken offence at Clemente’s decision to leave out some players who have been performing in their clubs on the grounds of discipline.
“Those who have compiled this list (team selection) do not like Cameroon. You cannot suspend players and claim to have the best team… If you want the best team, you call everyone,” Milla is quoted as saying.
However, as suggested by a poster on Gef’s Football Club, it is about time Cameroonians stop focusing on who’s absent and concentrate on supporting those included in the squad.
“Those who have been called up should take the challenge and make Cameroonians proud by bringing home all 3 points,” Ensah Bertrand said in a comment on a strory about Elokobi’s fortitude.
The man born in Mamfe, joins vice-captain Eyong Enoh and Mbuta Adongcho to bring to three the number of Cameroonians from the English-speaking part of the country who are part of the expedition to Dakar.
More tit-bits on Senegal v Cameroon to follow…
***UPDATE***: BENOIT ASSOU-EKOTTO AND JOEL MATIP WERE CALLED UP IN AN ADDITIONAL LIST PUBLISHED BY CAMEROON’S FOOTBALL AUTHORITY (FECAFOOT) ON FRIDAY 18 MARCH. CLICK HERE FOR SEPARATE STORIES ON THIS UPDATE
A few days after qualifying for this season’s quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League with their clubs, Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham, England) and Joel Matip (Shalke 04, Germany) have been left out of Cameroon’s 23-man squad to face Senegal in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Dakar on 26 March.
Both of them have been shining lights in the past three months with regular starting berths for their clubs and in key roles that are relevant for the Lions (i.e left full-back and centre midfield).
Assou-Ekotto, one of Cameroon’s more serious players, is the first-choice left-back for Spurs who lie fifth in the English premier league. His displays have won the hearts of many fans who used to see him as a weak link for the north London team. His qualities in taking set-pieces (corners and free-kicks) shall also be missed.
Speculation is rife in the Cameroon media that relations are not at their best between Assou-Ekotto, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador who has regularly spoken of his love for the Indomitable Lions’ shirt (which he preferred to France), and Javier Clemente, the Spanish born head coach of the west-central African nation.
Reports suggest that Clemente is unhappy that Assou-Ekotto did not join the squad in Macedonia last month after he was called up as a late replacement for some players who had failed to turn up.
Whether this is true or not, it is evident that, Assou-Ekotto is at the moment Cameroon’s best (and most match- fit) left full-back. Gaetan Bong has (admittedly) been good with Valencienne in the French Ligue 1 this season but he has been out of action for nearly a month due to injury, while Henri Bedimo of RC Lens in France is more often a substitute leftwinger (the role he has been playing for Cameroon as well).
Curiously, Clemente and his assistant Omam Biyick didn’t consider George Elokobi of Wolverhampton Wanderers who has been as consistent as Assou-Ekotto in the English Premier League, even if he is not as technically gifted as the Spurs man.
Of course, no player is indispensable and it is obvious that football managers who work on a daily basis with these players know better than spectators who get to see them only on matchday. Should Cameroon win against Senegal, Clemente would feel chuffed amidst the barrage of criticism that has followed his team selection.
Yet, it seems hard for fans to construe Joel Matip’s absence given his recent run of form at Shalke. He has looked the most likely replacement for Alex Song of Arsenal who has been sidelined since the World Cup.
Clemente and Omam Biyick however included Andre Ndame Ndame (Cotonsport FC), Joseph Momasso (Astres FC) and Patrick Abouna Ndzana (Astres) from Cameroon’s local league. They were among the local-based players who represented Cameroon at the just ended Africa Nations Championships in Sudan.
The bulk of the squad (see below) is drawn from players who appeared for Cameroon in a friendly against Macedonia last month, including Mbuta Andongcho who scored the winner (1-0).
Clemente had promised to maintain these players, claiming they are superior to the crop he had used in the games against Mauritius (3-1 for Cameroon) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (1-1) last year.
Meanwhile Senegal released its squad of 24 last week.
With both squads now available, Gef’s Football Club will offer a count-down to the game including tactical previews and tit-bits from Senegal. Watch this space.
Cameroon Squad to face Senegal (as published on Fecafootonline)
1. Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, Nantes FC – France
2. Idriss Carlos Kameni, RCD Espanyol – Espagne
3. Charles Itandje, Atromitos FC – Greece
4. Sebastien Bassong, Tottenham Hotspurs – Angleterre
5. Gaetan Bong, FC Valenciennes – France
6. Benoit Angbwa, FC Anji Makhatch – Russie
7. Patrick Abouna Ndzana, Les Astres FC – Cameroun
8. Nicolas Nkoulou, AS Monaco – France
9. Henri Bedimo, RC Lens – France
10. Stephane Mbia, Olympique Marseille – France
11. Matthew Mbuta Andongcho, Chrystal Palace -USA
12. Eyong Takang Enoh, AFC Ajax Amsterdam – Pays Bas
13. Landry Nguemo, AS Nancy – France
14. Andre Ndame Ndame, Coton Sport FC – Cameroun
15. Joseph Momasso, Les Astres FC – Cameroun
16. Aurelien Chedjou, Lille OSC – France
17. Georges Mandjeck, Stade Rennais FC – France
18. Benjamin Moukandjo, AS Monaco – France
19. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Hamburg SV – Allemagne
20. Somen A Tchoyi, West Bromwich Albion FC – Angleterre
21. Achille Webo, RCD Mallorca – Espagne
22. Samuel Eto’o, Inter Milan – Italie
23. Vincent Aboubakar, FC Valenciennes – France
Sunday afternoon I watched 26-year-old George Elokobi and his 89.9kg of pure muscle charging down the left flank for Wolverhampton Wanderers. They were playing against Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s (and Sebastien Bassong’s ) Tottenham Hotspur. It was an end-to-end game which finished in a 3-3 draw.
Elokobi’s power, drive, passion and the Cameroon flag on his wrist-band caught the eye. Though he looked tired and was sometimes outplayed by Tottenham’s Gareth Bale (when the latter came on as a substitute) towards the end of the encounter, Elokobi was not ready to give up. It is part of his personality that has seen him progress from non-league football to a regular place in a starting eleven of a professional club in one of the world’s biggest leagues.
Cameroon-born Elokobi is an example of the stories of fortitude, sacrifice and belief that make football so beautiful. An inspirational tale for aspiring footballers in Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa. Growing up in Cameroon was the first test of his fortitude, writes Stuart James in an *article published by the Observer newspaper before the game against Spurs.
“I lost my dad [to diabetes] when I was 11,” Elokobi says. “And then my mum came over to England for her studies. She got her qualifications and they offered her a job, which she accepted. I was living with my grandmum [in Cameroon], because I lost my granddad in the same year as my dad, in 1996. It’s been a tough time that I’ve been through. But it makes you stronger.”
While it was difficult for Elokobi’s mother to leave him behind, the decision was made with his best interests at heart. “My mum was working really hard [in England] to pay for my school fees and I’ve always been thankful that she gave me the opportunity to study at one of the best boarding schools in Cameroon,” Elokobi says. “I owe a lot to my mum. I look after her now. And I look after my extended family in Cameroon. That’s what Africans do.”
Elokobi was reunited with his mother at the age of 16, when he joined her in London. He enrolled at college and studied business, IT and sociology but his real passion has always been football. Inspired by Roger Milla’s performances at Italia 90 – “everyone wanted to be him in Cameroon” – Elokobi was always kicking a ball when he was younger, and he went on to captain his college team before he came to England and took things more seriously.
He joined non-League Dulwich Hamlet’s youth scheme, and he laughs as he recalls his first training session. “I had raw talent but I didn’t know positional play whatsoever. The ball was there and I was trying to get it because I knew I had the ability to get it off the boys but the coaches were saying: ‘No, this is where you have to be.’ I also didn’t used to talk on the pitch. In Cameroon, we just play – we don’t talk or give information like ‘man on’ or ‘turn’.”
Elokobi, though, was determined to learn, and he was rewarded for the extra hours he put in after training when Colchester signed him in 2004. He spent three and a half years with the Essex club – the highlight being the chance to play alongside Teddy Sheringham – before joining Wolves in a £300,000 deal in January 2008, the year Colchester were relegated from the Championship. Everything was going perfectly until the third league game of the following season, when he snapped his cruciate ligament at Ipswich.
“It was bad – one of the worst knee injuries you can have,” Elokobi says. “I damaged my knee in three different places. Some people don’t understand what I went through until I tell you now. I was given a 50-50 chance of playing again by the surgeon. One in 10 people come back and play at the highest level. All I know is that I was mentally strong. Sometimes you just have to say: ‘I’ll be the one in 10.’”
That he returned for the final game of the season, way ahead of schedule, hardly came as a surprise, although the following campaign had its problems. “Last season was still part of the rehabilitation,” he says. “I had to get rid of the scar tissue on my knee. I had to test it, twisting and turning against speedy wingers in the Premier League. I really struggled to find my form, probably until January, so it’s been a long process to get back to the player I am now.”
In recent weeks Elokobi has been playing some of his best football since he joined the club, helping to win over some of the more sceptical supporters and fuelling hopes he may win his first cap for Cameroon against Senegal this month. “I would love it if I was called up. It’s going to mean an awful lot to me,” says Elokobi, who is returning to Cameroon in the summer for the first time since he left in 2002. “But I’m concentrating on Wolves. I want to try and help keep the club up.”
He made a significant contribution towards that aim last month, when he scored the equaliser in the 2-1 win over Manchester United with a thumping header. Elokobi maintains that he should also have been credited with the second goal but Kevin Doyle won that argument. It must have been a brave battle for Doyle to take on. “But I’m a lover not a fighter,” Elokobi says, grinning. “I don’t want trouble. I just love playing football.”