I follow sports, not only for the thrill it delivers when the side you support wins a competition. I also follow sports for the great stories. Behind all the huffing and puffing, it is always great to pick lessons from the how. Stories of heroes, villains, underdogs and friends. Lessons we must immortalised in folklore, for the benefit of future generations.
In the middle of the first half of the AFCON 2017 final, I posted on my Facebook that regardless of who emerged winner after 90 minutes, we were guaranteed a great story. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon made a great comeback to win their nation’s 5th AFCON trophy. On their surprise journey to continental football glory, the young Cameroonian team had written their names in football folklore, with a story that will be part of team pep talks for generations to come.
It was the week before Christmas, and Cameroon coach Hugo Broos was in trouble. His top stars were turning down his call to play for their nation. Liverpool’s Matip, West Brom’s Nyom, Ajax’s Onana, etc. It was not looking like a Merry Christmas for the ex-Belgian international. The AFCON is a tough tournament, and a lack of experience and depth will always expose you. It was also not the best time to be assembling core players for a tournament. That should have happened several months before, at least on paper.
With nowhere to turn, Broos looked to his fringe players. These were players who will at best, sit on the bench of his ideal team. This included a certain Christian Bassogog, who was voted Player of the Tournament at AFCON 2017. Prior to September 2016, Broos had not heard of Christian Bassogog. In his time of need, he had found Bassogog on the Internet, and only invited him because his friends from his days coaching in Denmark, convinced him to do so after watching him play! Not to talk of Fabrice Ondoa, Barcelona academy graduate goalkeeper, trying to find his feet in the Team ‘B’ of Sevilla. Broos was forced to use Ondoa only because his cousin, Andre Onana of Ajax, refused the call up to play at the tournament. Three weeks ago, no one was giving this relatively inexperienced Cameroonian team a chance at the trophy. They did not look like champions on paper. I doubt Cameroonians themselves gave their team a chance at this tournament. It is also interesting to note, that the two players with the most international football experience in the team, were content to contribute from the bench. Similar situation has created ego problems in other teams in the past. However, when the Indomitable Lions needed them most, these two (Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar) came on and scored a goal each to bring glory to their nation.
Cameroon’s victory is a story of service. Service to one’s nation. A story of how a group of misfits, low on experience, high on patriotism, and bonded by a desire to make history; can do great things. “A group of 23 friends”, as Broos calls his team. It is also a story of fearless change made for the greater good. Congratulations to the Indomitable Lions!