Tag Archive: gaetan bong


Cameroon’s national soccer team the Indomitable Lions must defeat the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde by at least three clear goals on Sunday to obtain a ticket to  South Africa for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Cape Verde beat Cameroon  2-0 last month in the first-leg encounter.

The thought of missing a second AFCON in a row has led to desperate moves from the government, football officials and fans.  Authorities sacked the French-born coach who was in-charge of the team and installed Jean Paul Akono barely days after the defeat. Akono then pushed authorities to convince the team captain Samuel Eto’o to return to the squad after he suspended his international career last month.

He  picked several players who featured during his spells as head coach of the U-23 (Olympic) Lions and the senior Indomitable Lions between 2000 and 2004.  Achille Webo, Modeste Mbami, Pierre Wome, Jean Makoun, Angbwa Ossomeyong have not been in the den for a while but the Olympic Gold Medal winning coach thinks their experience will be a deciding factor in the weekend’s duel. The media thinks it is a sign of desperation.

Who knows? The coach may be banking on the views of Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century British Prime Minister, novelist and bon viveur who once said that “desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.”  Cameroon’s fortunes depend on Akono’s tactical genius.

Akono favours playing a high defensive line with  attackers and midfielders who harry and press opponents throughout the game. Can his “experienced players”  have the energy and fitness levels required for this?

According to reporters who have observed the team train all week, particularly the practice match against local (division 3) side  on Wednesday, the coach is plotting a flat 4-4-2 formation. He has regularly started with Idris Kameni as goalkeeper,  Angbwa as rightback and Wome as leftback; a very young central defence partnership of Guy Armel Kana Biyick and Nicolas Nkoulou. He has played with Alex Song, Jean Makoun, Idrissou and Mevoungou in midfield while Achille Emana or Eto’o and Webo have played as strikers.

MIDFIELD DIAMOND

On the overall scheme of things, Akono seems to be respecting his promise to set-up an attack-minded team (they beat the local side 5-1).  But a few things seem unclear, though. Is he playing an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with a double-pivot (of Makoun and Song) in central midfield and traditional wingers? Who are the wingers? Idrissou can put a shift on the left but his crossing is awful (he’s a striker) while  Mevoungou and Emana don’t enjoy playing on the flanks. How he tackles the issue would determine the attacking flow of the game.

If Cameroon must play a 4-4-2 formation,  I believe they are more suited to operate with a ‘diamond’  midfield due to the lack of true wingers among the current crop of players. They have hardworking midfielders to intercept (break-down) moves by opponents and shuttle from box-to-box. They also have relatively good  fullbacks who can  overlap to provide width rather than forcing reluctant central midfielders and  strikers into becoming the wingers.

For instance, they could start with:  Kameni (gk) – Allan Nyom or Angbwa (RB) and Wome (LB); Kana-Biyick (CB) Nkoulou (CB) in defence.  A midfield diamond with  either Alex Song or Joel Matip sat deep in space in-front of the back-four, Makoun a little ahead  to the left, Mevoungou or higher up on the right and Overtoom  at the tip of the diamond, behind Eto’o  or Achille Emana and Webo.

However they choose to play (and I won’t be surprised to see them playing a 3-5-2 formation with Kana, Nkoulou, Chedjou or Matip at the back) it won’t be a ride in the park. Cape Verde have been training as well and are so good that they outplayed Cameroon in Praia.

Cameroon have been down this road before. Eight veteran Lions visited the current pride to share their experience of backs-to-the-wall games. Roger Milla (CAF African Player of the 20th Century), Joseph Antoine Bell (1984 & 1988 AFCON winner), Theophile Abega (1984 AFCON winning captain), Bonaventure Njonkep (1984 AFCON winner) and Victor Ndi Akem, Eugene Ekeke and Thomas Libih (1990 World Cup quarter-finalists) sought to pass on the indomitable spirit of the past.

But what will be the story by 6p.m. on Sunday? Will fans be celebrating as wildly as they did on 10th October 1993 after Cameroon defeated Zimbabwe 3-1 to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.?  Will Eto’o and Webo be weeping inconsolably on the turf of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium as they did after the  Lions drew 1-1 with Egypt on 8th October 2005 and failed to reach the 2006  World Cup in Germany?

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Why is it that footballers  born in France , with French nationality and in some cases have even represented France at junior level choose to play for the countries of their fathers and /or mothers?

Whereas the commonly held response to this question is that these players don’t have the quality to be picked for France, Cameroon’s Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have given an interview to the U.K. Guardian newspaper that could be a pointer to a more disturbing reason (for the French): bad integration of African and Arab communities in the French society.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong in their Cameroon colours

They explain that people from Arab or African communities face serious integration problems in France to the point that they develop strong attachment to their original and/or ancestral roots which may suggest why more and more of these young people switch football nationalities without difficulty.

“…coming from where I did in France, even if you had only one little drop of Moroccan blood, for example, you would represent it to the death. You would be fiercely proud of being African, says Assou-Ekotto who was born in France to a French mother and a Cameroonian father and proudly represents the latter nation.

Assou-Ekotto who grew up in Arras , France and now plays professional football at Tottenham Hotspur in London, says people in England are fiercely proud of being English even when their parents come from elsewhere and the society accepts that, which is a big difference to France.

His Spurs colleague Bassong concurs.

“Most of the players on the French national team come from rough areas and when you live there, your friends all have dual nationalities,” said Bassong , who played for the French U-21s before switching to play for the land of his father and mother.

When he was in the France Under-21 team, he gave an interview in which he admitted “my heart beats for Cameroon.” He did not play for France again, according to the Guardian.

“When you ask them (French players) where they are from, they will say Senegal, Morocco, Algeria…,” he added.

It is to be expected that the French would want to understand why players switch from France to other countries at senior level. At the World Cup,  there were nine players on other sides who had previously played for France, according to the BBC.

Cameroon’s squad at the 2010 World Cup included three players  who at one stage of their careers had represented France: Sebastien Bassong (French U-21), Gaetan Bong (French U-21 until 2010) and Alexandre Song (French U-16 in 2002).

However, the attempt to limit this trend was  poorly tackled by French Football Federation officials (including the France head coach Laurent Blanc) who digressed into near racial undertones during a meeting that was recorded by a member of the Federation, and  was leaked to the press igniting a massive scandal.

The French Federation and Sports ministry officials launched separate  investigations  while  the French National Technical Director, Francois Blanquart, was suspended.

It should be noted here that Blanquart was the coach of the France under 16 team in 2002 that included Alexandre Song and Frank Songo’o who today play for Cameroon as well as Samir Nasri of Arsenal who represents France.

Assou-Ekotto who, [unlike Alex Song (born in Douala) and Frank Songo’o (born in Yaounde)], never adorned a French national team shirt before choosing to play for his African nation, believes the French society has a bigger issue to address.

“France has, at its heart, a problem where it has been unable or unwilling to accommodate the sons and daughters of its former colonies, even though France benefited and enriched itself greatly from the relationship. That’s hard to accept and it’s what sits at the base of what is dysfunctional in France,” the left full-back told the Guardian.

You can read the original story published by the Guardian online here