The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon booked a place for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by beating their hosts Morrocco by 2-0 on Saturday. Cameroon will be appearing at soccer’s biggest event for the sixth time – which is an African record.
After an initial defeat to Togo (0-1) and an insipid draw (0-0) in Yaounde with the Atlas Lions of Morrocco last June, it looked like Cameroon would miss the event for the second time in a row.
But a series of tough decisions by authorities, determination and discipline by the players, astute tactics and man-management by the new technical staff and the unity of purpose displayed by Cameroonians; the Indomitable Lions earned qualification in a run of 4 victories.
The World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations tickets in hand, the time is now for actions to ensure a commendable performance at both tournaments.
Paul Le Guen’s Contract
The first task is to extend Paul Le Guen’s contract. The Frenchman had signed a short-term deal with the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) . The objective was to qualify the team after 4 games. He has lived up to the billing.
Although he had never managed a national team until his apointment last July, Le Guen imposed discipline and challenged otherwise complacent (but nonetheless talented) players like Rigobert Song, Geremi Njitap, Samuel Eto’o or Jean Makoun to stand-up to their reputation in the African game.
Given his pedigree -as he could very well become a manager in any of the European clubs where the Lions operate – there was a sense of respect which seemed to be absent in the days of Otto Pfister and worse still, during the lone game managed by the quartet of Cameroonian coaches (Thomas N’Kono, Kaham Michel, Jean Paul Akono and Ndtoungou Mpile).
His tactics were adapted to they the type of players in hand, liberating the likes of Achille Emana and turning a bunch of players whop could hardly string two passes into an impressive, cohesive and effective force (4 wins in a row, 9 goals scored and just 1 conceded).
It would be foolish to spoil the work that he began by changing coaches again. Unfortunately for Fecafoot, Le Guen is in a position of strength now. He may ask much more than he is getting now and Cameroon authorities may have to bow to his wishes again. At least, he did what Arthur Jorge left undone in 2005. The Portuguese had been recruited almost the same circumstances but Cameroon drew its last game and failed to qualify to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Preparation not petty-quarrels
The other task (and it is one big one) is for the various components that run the national team to maintain the same focus seen since July. The ministry of sport and Fecafoot should maintain the same cordial relations with allowance made for the federation to manage the team as it is supposed to be. Proof is that, the coach that was recruited by the federation and confirmed by the State has produced results.
In-fighting has been our bane for too long. Once qualification to a major competition is obtained, newspapers are awash with stories about quarrels usually related to who should have the biggest portion of the booty than concrete plans for the squad’s readiness.
Cameroon needs to start choosing a camp site for the team in South Africa, planning possible friendlies for the few FIFA dates that we shall have between now and the World Cup, decide and quietly agree bonuses with the players and most of all arrange for the money to be available on time.
Instead of petty quarrels, football and sports officials should be seen setting targets to be met.Why can’t they state that Cameroon is aiming to win the next Africa Cup of Nations and a semi-final berth at the World Cup and describe what they are going to put in place for the team to reach the set goals?
I know that this current pack of Lions want to write their history.
They are tired of people telling them that they are not the greatest generation simply because the 1990 batch made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Whereas this is a generation that has won 2 Africa Cup of Nations (2000 and 2002), an olympic gold medal (2002), and a final of the FIFA Confederation Cup (2003).
It has some of the greatest individual talents Africa has ever seen – Samuel Eto’o (3 times African Player of the year, twice winner of the European Champions League), Geremi Njitap (European Champions League winner, Spanish and English Champion), while Rigobert Song is the recordman of games played at the Africa Cup of Nations and you can name them. Yet, 1990 with its bunch of players from Cameroon’s amateur league and second division teams in France remains the reference point.
Cameroonians too have their role to play.
As they must have realised, complete support for the team energised the players, where insults on internet forums and applause for opponents at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium had usually demoralised them. That must remain – if we truly want to see the players shine in Angola and especially South Africa next year.