Category: Sport Extra


Samuel Eto’o has announced that he is retiring from international football barely a few days after he was left out of a new look Cameroon squad and replaced as captain ahead of two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.

“I wish to inform you that I hereby put an end to my international career. On this occasion, I wish to thank all Africans in particular and all my fans to around for their love and support,” a statement on the player’s Official Facebook page said on Thursday.

Eto’o who  joined English Premiership side Everton on a free transfer this week made his debut for Cameroon in an international friendly against Costa Rica in 1997. He was the youngest player to feature the World Cup in France in 1998. His big break on the international scene, however, came in the 2000 Africa Nations Cup when he starred alongside Patrick Mboma in the forward line of Cameroon’s title winning

Samuel Eto'o at a press conference in Dakar

Samuel Eto’o has said his final goodbye to the Indomitable Lions?

team.

He was part of the team that won an Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney in 2000 and went on to win a second Africa Cup in a row (Cameroon’s fourth) in 2002.

While he remains Cameroon’s all time best scorer at national team level, he continually faced criticism that despite his individual success (he is a four times African Player of the Year) and the trophies he won at club level in Europe (he won several Spanish league titles with FC Barcelona, two European Champions League trophies with the Catalan giants before adding a third with the Italian side Inter Milan) Cameroon stagnated at international level.

Troublesome Genius

He was often accused of fomenting trouble in the Cameroon dressing room, clashing with his team-mates, coaches and the country’s football authorities. Some suggested that he was the main protagonist in the row over World Cup participation premiums which led to Cameroon players refusing to board a flight to the World Cup in Brazil.

Although the Cameroon coach Volker Finke attributed his decision to leave Eto’o out of the squad to rejuvenation of the squad and also because the player had no club (at the time the squad was named), several Insiders felt the striker was paying the price for his role in that pre-World Cup farce and the disastrous campaign that followed.

Eto’o had in the past been suspended from the team for leading a player strike in 2012 when the Lions refused to play a friendly against Algeria over a row related to participation premiums.

Notwithstanding his rumored negative spots, Eto’o remained a real talisman for the Cameroon team and possibly the country’s most talented player at the moment. He will be missed by Cameroon, not for the goals he scored but more for his playmaking ability which were more apparent when he played for the national side.

In fact, he was rarely used as a central striker by most coaches from 2004, often deployed to the left or right of a three-man attack or as a playmaker behind the main striker.

It is the second time that Eto’o looks set to abandon the national colors. The difference this time though is that he made a formal announcement which wasn’t the case in late 2013 when it was rumored that he quit the selection.

He will be replaced as national team captain by Stephane Mbia who was appointed by the Cameroon minister for sport on Monday. Eric Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar were named vice-captains.

Meanwhile, veteran Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun has also announced his retirement from international football. He had also been left out of the squad as Cameroon tries to rebuild after two humiliating World Cup participations in 2010 and 2014 and failing to qualify for the last two Africa. Cup of Nations tournaments.

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Each time the Indomitable Lions qualify for a tournament, Cameroonian singers and musicians get to work composing songs to the glory of the team.

The FIFA World Cup 2014 has inspired many of these artistes. Using multiple genres including Cameroonian Makossa and Bikutsi through to jazz-fusion, they sing: ‘Allez les Lions’ or ‘Go Lions’ and seem to believe that they will win. Here’s a list of six songs are released this year to celebrate the Lions:

1. Cameroun Wake Up – Co-written and performed by Conti Billong and Imke Mueller; featuring Manu Dibango: There’s a touch of Makossa as well as Jazz and funk to this tune. It is one of my favourites.

2. On Va Gagner (We’re Going to Win) by Armand Laklass : is a hot Makossa/Couper Decaller fusion. The sort of song that will get people dancing in clubs across Cameroon but also in other parts of West/Central Africa.

3. Venez Celebrer (let’s party/celebrate) by The 4 : captures the current spirit of popular music by young Cameroonians . It’s a blend of hip hop and local beats sung in French, English, Pidgin English and Camfranglais. This gives a flavour of the country’s linguistic diversity.

4. Allez Les Lions (Go Lions) by Askia featuring J Milly: also draws from what youngsters enjoy listening to.

5. In the Game by Duc Z featuring Stanley Enow : Produced by Orange mobile phone network which is one of the ‘Top Sponsors’ of the Indomitable Lions. Beyond the subtle marketing objective, it is worth listening to; especially as it features one of Cameroon’s top hip hop/rap talents of the moment: Stanley Enow.

6. Pala Pala by Bikutsi songstress Mani Bella isn’t really a football song. However soccer fans have taken to the song’s beats to produce a video to celebrate the Indomitable Lions.

There are several more songs that I couldn’t feature in this list. The question that comes to mind, though, is what happens after the competition. There are some songs to the glory of the Indomitable Lions that have stood the test of time.

One of them is Marie Arcangello’s Allez Allez Les Lions (it’s English version is Forward Forward Lions) released in 1990 ahead of the World Cup in Italy. It has basically become an anthem that is played just before National Anthem each time the Indomitable Lions play at the Yaounde stadium.

But most of the songs disappear especially after a poor showing by the team. Does anyone remember “Lions Indomptable” by Patou Bass in 2010?

Maybe these artistes should wait until the tournament is over to release a song. That way, if it is a successful campaign their song will remembered forever.

For instance, I continue to hear Pepe Kalle’s ‘Roger Milla’ played on radio stations and at parties around South Sudan. The song was an ode to the Lions by a Congolese artiste after the team reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in 1990.

That’s a plan!

Cameroon has a new minister of sport and physical education. He is Adoum Garoua, a former athlete who played for the national volley-ball team and also defended Cameroon colours in high jump.

Adoum Garoua was Minister of Youth Affairs until his appointment on Friday 9 Dec by President Paul Biya.

He served in the Ministry of Youth and Sport as head of human resources.  He would need all the tact and expertise of an HR manager to deal with the sports sector in Cameroon, especially football.

He replaces Michel Zoa whose last act was to supervise the final rehearsal of the parade that will precede the Cup of Cameroon final between Cotonsport Garoua and Unisport du Haut Nkam (Bafang).

Adoum Garoua was also present at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium on Friday for the rehearsal but claims he wasn’t aware at the time that he would be named Minister of Sport.

He is the fourth Minister of Sport since Bidoung Mpkatt was dropped in 2004. Interestingly, Bidoung Mkpatt now returns as Adoum Garoua ‘s successor  in the Ministry of Youth.

Does an African football star’s job end at running after a ball and scoring goals? Cameroon’s Benoît Assou-Ekotto doesn’t think so.  The Indomitable Lions defender  believes African athletes who are lucky to become famous need to use their fame to help less privileged members of their communities beat poverty.

Assou-Ekotto is a special advocate for the U.N. Millennium Campaign which seeks to end extreme poverty by 2015. He plans to work with youths in his country, and elsewhere in Africa, with his key message being the importance of education.

The Tottenham Hotspur left-back talks about this in the following video (in French).

Cameroon has added three players – Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Joel Matip and George Elokobi – to its initial squad called to camp ahead of an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal on 26 March and a friendly against Gabon three days later, a statement issued by the country’s football federation (FECAFOOT) said late on Friday.

These players are among Cameroon’smost in-form internationals and it was surprising to many that they were left out of the by the coaches. It remains to be seen if all of them respond positively to this late call-up.

However, their inclusion in the squad suggests that the coaching staff have been cowed by popular outrage and/or they (staff) have crumbled under the weight of intervention from officials and the political management of football in that west-central African country.

Javier Clemente, the Spain-born, head coach of Cameroon is known in international football circles as  being  direct to a fault, telling his players his mind and ready to pick a fight with anyone who thinks they are too big to toe the line. In keeping with that character trait he  felt he had to assert his authority by leaving out players he deemed had slighted him.

Sadly, it seems Clemente didn’t get the memo about the country he signed up to train. Football in Cameroon is more than a game for the ruling elites. It is a political tool.

The national team’s success is usually branded (in presidential speeches) as an achievement of the government in power and the team is used as an example of national unity, courage and determination as well as  a model of what can be achieved if the nation worked for a common purpose.

A political tool

When socio-political turbulence looms, the authorities play up  the greater national cause – focusing on a match, tournament, or qualification campaign – thus letting off the steam that could have exploded in the form of protests and riots against bad governance in a country where the economy has stagnated, and unemployment and inequality have risen, according to Crisis Group.

Curiously Clemente’s assistant, Francois Omam Biyick who is a former national captain and hero, may have failed to warn the Spaniard that in delicate political times as is the case now – with revolutions in the north of Africa and people tempted to replicate them in sub-Saharan Africa – sports authorities in Cameroon would not take chances on issues that could unleash discontent.

Deliberately omitting players that fans regard as vital to the squad for a must-win game is one of such issues.  The thinking in Yaounde is that there could be anger that might mutate into political protests should the team lose and/or fail to qualify for the Africa Cup as a result of such a decison.  Such a scenario happened in  the February 2008  riots that started-off as a taxi-drivers’ strike over fuel prices and veered into full scale unrest.

Political intervention in team selection is not new.

In 1990, with Cameroon struggling to build a convincing team for the World Cup in Italy  in a political context of growing discontent against the regime and calls for multi-party politics, a presidential decree got Roger Milla out of retirement and imposed him on the coaches and players of the national team.

His exploits – scoring four goals at the age of 38 – which contributed to Cameroon becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals gave the regime a two-month breather during which it tried to regroup and unleash a media campaign. The government stuffed the people with patriotic songs of unity exemplifying “the brave Lions” on State radio and TV (which were monopolies then).

Eventually, international and local pressure led the authorities to legalise multi-party politics and issue several laws on freedom of association and expression

Political manipulation doesn’t end at squad selection.

In 1993, a lacklustre Cameroon team struggled its way through the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.A. The final qualifying game was against Zimbabwe on 10 October with close to 100,000 people (according to State media), including president Paul Biya,  crammed in the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium whose official capacity is about 35,000.

Biya had been re-elected in controversial circumstances in the country’s first multi-party elections in 1992. The opposition had called for a “ghost-town” (civil disobedience –no work, not business activity, etc) on 11 October which was the anniversary of the proclamation of Biya’s victory by the Supreme Court. The operation was meant to be a protest at what the opposition considered as a “stolen electoral victory”.

Omam Biyick scored twice, and Maboang Kessack (if my memory hasn’t failed me) scored a third and Cameroon beat Zimbabwe 3-1. As the stadium and the country exploded in joyous frenzy, Biya declared 11 October a public holiday in honour of the great victory. Technically, there could be no ghost-town again since it was effectively a holiday.

More than a game

But Cameroon is not alone when it comes to using football for political gains.  From Kwame Nkrumah’s and Jerry Rawlings’ Ghana, through Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire to  Muammar Khadafi’s Libya, Abdoulaye Wade’s Senegal and Goodluck Johnathan’s Nigeria, football is a vital tool to those in power in Africa.

Authorities in Senegal have been using the recent run of good form by the Lions of the Teranga to shift people’s focus from a myriad of challenges rocking the country including excessive power outages, high cost of consumer goods and increased poverty,  local media have said.

The WalfAdjiri newspaper reported that Senegalese authorities are so wary of an explosion of discontent should their national team lose to Cameroon, that they promised to provide everything requested by the team coach who complained of poor lodging and logistics for the team during a recent friendly against Guinea.

This 19 March, however, civil society groups have called for a mass demonstration on the streets of Dakar to raise these issues and ask for government to tackle them. The government has authorized the protest but has warned that it would not accept any vandalism. Some youth groups are suggesting that these demonstrations would run until next Saturday’s game but that remains to be seen.

It is evident that when the national football teams of Cameroon and Senegal lock horns on the pitch of Dakar’s Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium next Saturday, the ruling elites in both countries won’t consider the encounter as a leisurely contest of 22 athletes seeking to qualify for an African Cup of Nations.

Benoît Assou-Ekotto had a rough Tuesday night at the Stade de Suisse where he was substituted within 30 minutes of play in a Champions League play-off *game between Tottenham Hotspur (England) and  Young Boys Bernes (Switzerland). The Cameroonian wasn’t at his best but fans could at least find a place in the hearts for a multi-million footballer who is willing to donate to the less fortunate, as reported byPeter Dominiczak in the London Evening Standard.

**Today Tottenham Hotspur star Benoît Assou-Ekotto said he was moved to donate to the Dispossessed Fund after picking up a copy of the Evening Standard on the Underground and reading about the “shocking” plight of the capital’s poorest people.

The Cameroon international, who was born in Arras in the north of France, is making a significant donation to the Standard’s campaign after reading about the practice of interring bodies in communal paupers’ graves.

Speaking near his home in Canary Wharf, the Tottenham left-back hailed the £1 million fund as doing “something very special for London” and called for more to be done to help the capital’s poor. He said: “I’m proud to support the Standard’s Dispossessed campaign. It is doing something very special for London. When I picked up the newspaper and read about the kind of poverty still going on in this city, it was shocking.

“The campaign showed how some people are living in London. It was a big surprise. You don’t expect that in a city with so much. It made me so happy that Londoners want to do something about it.”

Despite his millions and a fleet of performance cars, the 26-year-old has shunned aspects of the typical Premier League footballer’s lifestyle since arriving at Tottenham in 2006.

He takes the Tube everywhere he goes in central London and is unlikely to be spotted stumbling out of a nightspot at 3am. “I love London and consider myself to be a Londoner. I take the Tube. It allows me to feel like a normal person,” he said. “I’ve always got my Oyster card with me. I live an anti-football life. I want to live like a normal person. My mother didn’t teach me to live like a star. I know how difficult it is to make money.

“It’s strange to walk around the city and see people sleeping in the streets. You shouldn’t be able to see something like that and then just go home and carry on with your life as normal. You have to do something about it.”

Assou-Ekotto’s father, David, moved to France from Cameroon as a 16-year-old boy. Although he was born in France and has a French mother, Assou-Ekotto has always considered himself to be from Cameroon and played for the national team at the World Cup. He said his background has made him acutely aware of just how important it is to help those in need.

“I’m a footballer and I earn a lot of money, but when I go back to Cameroon I see the real problems that people are facing. It made me re-evaluate my life. The Dispossessed has shown that the same type of problems still exist in London. In 2010, everybody in London should be able to live a normal life. Everybody should have a roof over their head and should be able to eat every day. It’s not happening here and that is wrong.”

Assou-Ekotto said he was astonished by the “community spirit” of Londoners who donated to the fund. “London has a very special place in my heart. When I give up football, I want to stay here,” he said. “What is most important about the campaign is the feeling of Londoners coming together to help people. I’ve never known anything like the Dispossessed happening in France. Londoners care a lot about their city and the people in it.”

Assou-Ekotto called on Londoners to continue to support the campaign. He said: “It’s important for the whole of London to support the Dispossessed. In a city that has so much, it is good that we can do something to help people with so little.”

*By the way, the game between Spurs and Young Boys finished on a 3-2 scoreline. Two Cameroonian scored in the game: Bienvenue Tsama for the Swiss team and Sebastien Bassong for the English outfit.

**This original title of this piece is:The Dispossessed: Spurs star Benoît Assou-Ekotto proud to help ease plight of poor

The Lions of Cameroon have packed-out of the World Cup in South Africa after 3 defeats in a row. They are the only African team at “Africa’s World Cup” that was not able to record a single point.  Their 1-2 defeat to Holland in the last group game confirmed their inability to beat a European team in a competitive match since a 2-1 victory over Rumania in June 1990. Their only victory at a World Cup since 1990 was against Saudi Arabia in 2002 (see video below).

And did you realise that …

  1. By scoring his country’s lone goal against Holland, Samuel Eto’o has been involved in all of Cameroon’s World Cup goals in 8 years. He made the assist for Patrick Mboma to score Cameroon’s goal in the 1-1 tie with Ireland in 2002 and scored the winner in the 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in that same tournament. He then scored for the Lions in the 2-1 defeats to Denmark and Holland in 2010. Simply put, without Eto’o Cameroon would have zero (0) goals in six World Cup games…
  2. Aurelien Chedjou is a good midfielder and not the average central defender or laughable right full-back that his coaches at club level and the national team want him to be. He was probably the best Cameroonian on the field in Cape Town on Thursday. He recuperated the ball with punch, without useless fouls and always sought to take the game forward with short, carefully weighted passes. Though his long distance shots were not good, he clearly made everyone forget that Arsenal’s Alex Song was not on the pitch.
  3. Chedjou, Stephane Mbia, Alex Song and Georges Mandjeck who were all part of World Cup squad, made up the midfield of the under 23 squad that reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in 2008. Imagine those four in midfield at the same time…Add Maxim Choupo-Moting who shone in the second half of the Holland game (but was surprisingly withdrawn in favour of Idrissou) and the likes of Vincent Aboubakar, Joel Matip, Eyong Enoh, Gaetan Bong, Sebastien Bassong and Nicolas Nkoulou into the mix and one has a good foundation for Cameroon to build a strong squad in future.
  4. Cameroon’s  future could be bright as seen in the glimpses of brilliant play against Holland, with short-passes, technique and movement that Patrick Mboma (now a TV pundit) compared it to football played by FC Barcelona. Mboma, however, said on French TV channel Canal+ that it takes time to build a team to successfully play in that manner especially when it is not their traditional style of play. Clearly, Cameroon cannot succeed  with short-term, quick-fix coaches and management. Maybe Le Guen could have succeeded if this was a long-term project not hinged on immediate success for socio-political reasons. Are Cameroonians (fans and politicians) ready for patient, long-haul development that might involve the absence of trophies?  Do the football officials have such vision?
  5. Rigobert Song became the first African to appear at four FIFA World Cup tournaments when he came on as a late substitute versus Holland. But what image shall remain in our minds? A charismatic captain who fought to the last for his country? That of a defender who took 2 red cards in successive World Cup tournaments? Or is it that of a man struggling for pace against Arjen Robben in the action that led to the 2nd goal for the Dutch side? Le Guen showed kindness by giving him a chance to play but the Frenchman could have proceeded otherwise…Maybe he should have withdrawn Makoun instead of Nkoulou, and pushed Mbia to midfield. This would have left Rigobert Song at centre-back with Nkoulou who is used to covering the old Lion’s lack of pace. Well, that’s the past…
  6. The future (at centre-back) is in the hands of Bassong and Nkoulou and it is surprising that the coach did not stick to this duo. There were many lapses in the Mbia/Nkoulou and Mbia/Rigobert Song centre-back partnerships against Holland.  The Lions were lucky that the referee didn’t give a penalty against them after Mbia clearly fouled a Dutch player towards the end of the game. He has the fighting spirit but Bassong has the positional sense of a good centre-back. All the Tottenham Hotspur man needs is confidence from managers and the public as well as time for his duo with Nkoulou to gel.
  7. If the candidates to replace Rigobert Song are many, it seems harder to find a replacement for Geremi Njitap on the right flank (both offensively and defensively). Once he came on as a substitute against Japan, the pre-tournament view that Cameroon’s weakest link was the right-flank  was turned around. The weak link became the left-flank which was the entry point for all the goals conceded by the team.
  8. Cameroon versus Holland was Paul Le Guen’s last game in-charge of Cameroon and he stayed true to his tradition of chopping and changing players. There were 5 players who did not start the game against Denmark. Le Guen used nearly his whole 23 man-squad in 3 matches. Only the injured Georges Mandjeck did not have the opportunity to taste the World Cup among the outfield players. Similarly, all 20 outfield players appeared for Cameroon under Le Guen at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. There was at least one different player in all 20 matches he managed from August 2009 to June 2010 (never repeating the same sqaud). In 2010 alone, he had 10 different centre-back partnerships in 13 games – Cameroon conceded 22 goals in the process.
  9. Goalkeeper Souleymanou Hamidou was beaten 5 times in this competition. This simply maintained a cameroon tradition of letting-in 5 goals in the group stages of the World Cup  which they only failed to achieve in 1982 (1 goal) and 2002 (4 goals).  In 1990 they created history by being the first team with a negative goal difference (-2) to top its pool and qualify for the second round. They had been beaten 4-0 by the USSR and they won 2-1 over Rumania. In 1994, they conceded 11 (eleven) goals in 3 matches: a 2-2 draw with Sweden; 0-3 defeat to Brazil; and 1-6 thrashing in the hands of Russia. In 1998, they were beaten 3-0 by Italy and obtained two 1-1 draws with Austria and Chile.
  10. In the first World Cup hosted by an African country, Cameroon, the continent’s highest ranked team at the start of the tournament, were only better than the Democratic People’s Republic of  Korea (North Korea) that conceded 12 goals and scored only 1 in 3 games.

(click here to listen) The People’s Game – Radio Show for Saturday June 19, 2010

Today’s (Saturday’s)  show was live-to-air on our home station, KPFK Radio Los Angeles. We open with a roundtable (Alan, Jennifer, Pablo, and Fernando) that takes the temperature of the tournament then shifts to Jennifer’s commentary in today’s Guardian, which calls on FIFA to use this World Cup to combat sexual violence as it has done with racism. Then we focus on Cameroon, the first team exiled from the tournament after a 2-1 loss to Denmark. We’re joined by two bloggers, both passionate supporters of the (In)dominable Lions, to learn what went wrong for this highly-talented side: Cameroon native George Fominyen; and American Liz Hottel. Then we’re joined by the filmmakers behind a great new film, Pelada, about pick-up soccer games around the world. Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham, accomplished players themselves, literally traveled the entire globe – and their film captures the intense joy that people from all nations spontaneously find in the game.

Cameroon’s national football team will this Tuesday play an exhibition game to bid farewell to their fans before jetting-off to South Africa for the World Cup. It is a traditional game played between the 23 players selected for a tournament amidst song, drums and dance.

Many Cameroonian fans are so attached to this ceremony that they believe the team would ultimately have a poor showing if it does not play that game at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde. The current manager, Paul Le Guen, came under a barrage of criticism for scrapping this aspect of preparations ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

Whether or not this had an effect on the Indomitable Lions’ poor showing last January is a matter for diviners and religious people to tell. Now, Paul Le Guen has been “educated” to include this tradition in his programme for the World Cup.

“We were told that it is customary for the Lions to always play an exhibition match at the stadium in Yaounde,” Le Guen told a press conference in Yaounde on Monday.

“I’ve talked to the Cameroonian members of the staff who told me it is a good thing. I also spoke with the Minister of Sport and the president of FECAFOOT (Cameroon football federation) and I acceded to their request (for this customary stop),” the Frenchman added.

HISTORY

Whereas the tradition of leaving the players of the national team to meet family and friends 2 or 3 days before departure for a tournament dates back to the early ’80s, the exhibition match became a feature only in 1998 ahead of the World Cup in France.

The then coach, Claude Le Roy, had made wholesale changes in the squad and many of the players like Samuel Ipoua, Angibeaud Nguidjol, and Lauren Etame Mayer were unknown to the fans. The idea was to play a game in which the people could identify and commune with their team.

I remember that the fans barely knew Lauren’s name but were impressed by his display – and thus referred to him as “le sept” (the N°7 – his shirt number in that game).

The match has become a tradition especially as the bulk of Cameroon’s internationals play their club football in Europe.

With at good number of players of  Le Guen’s 23 – Joel Matip, Ndy Assembe, Vincent Aboubakar –  barely joining the team and some only obtaining clearance to play for Cameroon only a week or so ago – Maxim Choupo Moting and Gael Bong; it would be an opportunity for the very demanding crowd to judge and “bless”them.

The team captain, Samuel Eto’o has already warned the “new” Lions, particularly Choupo-Moting his young colleague of the attack line, about the importance and pressure of this ceremony.

“I told him that the most difficult match will be played tomorrow (today) at Mfandena (the neighbourhood of the stadium) during the farewell to the public…It is at Mfandena that all happens. Here at home we are all coaches,” Eto’o said in Cameroon Tribune, the state run daily.

HISTORIC

This year’s “blessings” match, by design or coincidence, falls on 8 June – a date which has remained forever in Cameroon football history. It was on that day, 20 years ago, that the Lions  defeated Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup in Italy and put Cameroon on the world map.

Will the current pride of Lions be inspired by the exploits of their predecessors? Will they shine line Omam Biyick whose header gave Cameroon that famous victory? Cameroon has never crossed the group stages of the World Cup since 1990 – could Samuel Eto’o and team-mates do it this time?

Samuel Eto'o in green

Cameroon’s national football team captain and star player, Samuel Eto’o, says he has had to re-think if he must participate in the World Cup after former Indomitable Lions striker, Roger Milla ,said Eto’o had yet to prove his worth for his country and lacks discipline.

Roger Milla, who scored 4 goals in Cameroon’s run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990, said in an interview on Thursday that Eto’o had given much to his clubs Barcelona and Inter Milan but had never achieved anything with Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions.

” What did he (Milla) achieve? ” Eto’o is quoted by the French news agency as saying in an interview on French TV channel Canal+Sport on Friday.  “Finally you wonder whether these are really my countrymen. Are these really my people? Is it worth it to go to the World Cup?”, Eto’o added in a series of rhetorical questions.

It is not the first time that Milla is harsh towards Eto’o in particular and the new generation of players in general before a crucial competition. Weeks before Cameroon’s decisive qualifying game against Morocco, Milla had accused Eto’o of being a nuisance in the national squad.

“He did not win the World Cup, they played quarter-finals and what a team it was! They had one the best teams with great players in each compartment.  The fact that they (Milla) enjoyed glory at the age 40 does not gives them right to talk (like that),” Eto’o said.

Many fans expressed fear that Milla’s comments could dent Cameroon’s preparation for the World Cup and Eto’o’s threats have proved that this might be the case in a context where the team’s stability and cohesion is uncertain.

The Inter Milan player had been given 8 days of holiday by the coach, Paul Le Guen, after a long season which saw him win a second treble – national league, national cup and European Champions League trophy – with Inter Milan.

CRISIS

The Indomitable Lions are supposed to play against Slovakia in a warm up match on Saturday (29 May) in Klagenfurt, Austria after which the coach plans to name the 23-man squad to travel to South Africa for the World Cup.

Confusion from Milla’s statements which another Cameroonian football legend, Joseph Antoine Bell, described as “inelegant” only add to a series of set-backs to the team’s preparations.

In fact, the team played a slack and scoreless friendly training match against Georgia on Tuesday and the coach is still unsure about the eligibility of two players, Maxim Choupo-Moting and Gaetan Bong, that he hopes to the take to the soccer tournament in June.

The players had represented Germany and France respectively at youth team level and need a FIFA waiver to compete for the homeland of the fathers. Media reports have suggested that Cameroon’s football federation (FECAFOOT) was late to start the administrative procedure to obtain the waiver.

Choupo Moting’s father (who is also a football agent) clearly explains (in French) in this audio clip how the federation officials fumbled with the procedure and reveals that the football’s world body will decide on the matter next week and expects the outcome to be favourable for Cameroon.

The FECAFOOT boss, Iya Mohamed, who promised that there would be a decision on the matter this Friday, would need to improve his association’s skills in negotiating complex issues. They have a test of their diplomatic skills  in the form of convincing Eto’o to down his boycott threats, get back to the fold and focus on success for Cameroon on African soil.