There are many who claim that Cameroon’s rise to top of the stakes in football started at the FIFA World Cup in 1990. I am not one of those. I posit that the hand-writing was on the wall in Spain 1982, and the legend took shape during the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosted by Ivory Coast in 1984.
On 18 March 1984, for the first time in the Cameroon’s soccer history, a national side won an international trophy. It wasn’t just any, it was the Africa Cup of Nations (video follows).
That golden generation of 1982 gifted with raw talent, skill and patriotism had matured to a team blessed with football wizardry. Having Abega Théophile nicknamed “doctor” for the science of his game, Roger Milla (Africa’s greatest striker of all times) and Gregoire Mbida (nicknamed “Arantes” in reference to the legendary Pélé) on the same squad was magic to bestow.
Add to these, the energy of Ebongue Ernerst a.k.a “Bouboule”, the toughness of Toubé Charles and Aoudou Ibrahim, a dose of Réné Djeya’s shots, Kundé Emmanuel’s class (that could fill Pirlo with envy), Joseph Antione Bell’s confidence at goal and you have a Cup winning side.
It was 25 years ago.It was the birth of winning spirit: the never say die attitude that has become synonymous to Cameroon national football teams.
The team that won the trophy in Abidjan this had lost 0-1 to Egypt in its opening game but ressurected like sphnyx crushing hosts Ivory Coast 2-0 and walloping Togo 4-1 before facing Algeria in a gruelling semi-final.
I still remember how my whole family sat around the radio set on that occasion, weaving images of Bell stopping penalties as described by Zachary Nkwo and Abel Mbengue on Radio Cameroon. Cameroon did not have television station at the time but I can tell you with precision every move that was made then.
The same fighting spirit re-emerged at the final when they came from one goal down to beat the Green Eagles (that were still to become Super) by 3 goals to 1.
That indomitable spirit has not left the team and the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana (though not as succesful) is testimony to that. Sadly, the finesse seems to have disappeared. The breath-taking combinations (Abega-Milla-Milla-Abega) in the second goal which left the Ivorian TV commentator gasping for air are quite rare now.
It is in honour of these men who laid the foundation of Cameroon’s domination of the African game that I launch Gef’s football Club at this time of the year. It is a small celebration of the 25th annivesary of the men whose names should be engraved on tablets of gold: Joseph-Antoine Bell, Charles Toubé, René N’Djeya, Francois Ndoumbé Lea, Isaac Sinkot, Théophile Abéga, Grégoire Mbida, Ibrahim Aoudou, Ernest Ebongué, Roger Milla, Bonaventure N’Djonkep ,Emmanuel Kundé, Nicolas Makon, Ruben Félix Mamilo, Dagobert Dang, Luc Mbassi, Jacques Songo’o, Herman Kingué, Elie Onana, Jacques Nguéa, Thomas Nkono and Paul Alain Eyobo.