Indomitable? Nowadays, many people wonder whether the Lions are still indomitable. But the recent mediocre performances of Cameroon’s national football teams in international competitions have left the impression that something is seriously wrong with the Lions.
Where has the winning spirit suddenly gone to? Where is the Cameroon national team that made the world to vibrate in 1990 as the first African country to reach the quarter final of a World Cup? Where are the Lions that for two consecutive times (2000 and 2002) roared loudest in Africa? Where are those young Lions who honoured Africa when they grabbed the Olympic gold medal in 2000?
From Japan to Mali : Stations of the Cross
The debacle began in the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan. The Indomitable Lions, who were lavishing in continental glory (twice champions of Africa), bowed out in the first stage of the competition. Cameroon was pitted against Germany, Ireland and Saudi Arabia in Group E; one that was considered at their reach, judging from their prowess. But the Indomitable Lions let go the chance to qualify for the prestigious round of 16. The untimely elimination of Cameroon sent fissures in the fabrics of the national team. There were accusations and counter accusations with some players such as Patrick Mboma going public to accuse the management of the National team. The next time the Lions met after the Japan fiasco was on February 10, 2003 in Châteauroux, France. This was during a friendly against Côte d’Ivoire. Their shallowness was once more brought to light as they succumbed to the Elephants, 0-3. The Confederations Cup in France that followed thereafter could be considered the silver lining in the dark cloud. Cameroon, once more, impressed the world by making it to the finals. Was this a streak of luck or regained invincibility? The answer came thereafter.
The Tunisia Humiliation
During the last African Cup of Nations which took place in Tunisia from January 24th to February 14th, the limits of the Lions exposed the in-depth weakness. The team that defended the national colours lacked the ferocity of the lion. Through out the tournament, the Indomitable Lions had a weak attack line and a very porous defence. Cameroon drew with Algeria 1-1, bagged three goals from first timers Zimbabwe, scoring five goals and went in for a virgin tie with Egypt. The shaky performance nonetheless, propelled the team to the second round. They could not withstand the pressure from their opponents. Cameroon, the reigning champions were eliminated at the quarter finals by the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the same team it had outplayed over the years.
All Categories Concerned
The present decline is affecting all categories of Cameroonian football : Under 23 team (Hoper), the Under-20 squad (Junior) and the Under-17 group (Cadets). The Hopers who started shining in 1999 (1999 All African Games Gold medallist, 2000 Olympic gold medallists and 2004 All African Games gold medallist), will not be present in Athens to defend the gold medal they won in 2000 in Sydney. They were beaten by the Malian Eagles during the sixth and last playing day of the qualifiers for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The 1-0 defeat jeopardised their chances. The 2000 Olympic gold medallists will therefore not be in Athens in August to defend the medal they won in Sydney; What a shame!
In 2003 the Cadet Lions became champions of Africa in their category. This title which they got in Swaziland qualified them for the World Cup in the category. Unfortunately, they were eliminated at the first round after realising three draws in three matches. Brazil (1-1) Yemen (1-1) and Portugal (5-5).
Can we therefore say that Cameroon’s football is entering a stage of lethargy? That the marriage between Cameroon and football is at the verge of divorce? From all indications, a lot of house cleaning is needed to enable Cameroon stay on in future competitions such as the 2006 African Cup of Nations and the World Cup. The time for reflection is now.
Irene MORIKANG, CT