CAMEROON have Africa’s most successful national soccer team. The Indomitable Lions have qualified for the Fifa World Cup five times in 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002- more than any other African nation.
They have won four African Nations Cups, and then gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games.
The game of soccer is followed religiously in the country, and footballers have attained cult status because of the riches and flamboyant lifestyles bestowed by their talents.
This is so because the country’s footballers are targets for big European clubs who are always on the hunt for the conveyer belt of talent supplied by such countries as Cameroon and her West African cousins.
Think back to such world-class players as Roger Milla, Jacques Song’o, Samuel Eto’o, Rigobert Song, and presently young pretenders like Alex Song of Arsenal, one of the finest young players in world football today.
Accordingly the best players do not stay in Cameroon. Because of the high demand, European clubs have wrestled away players barely in their teens.
Because the cream leaves the country, the general notion is that only the mediocre ones remain at home. It is therefore nothing short of sheer determination that the country’s domestic champions, Cotonsport Garoua, have reached the semi-final stage of the MTN CAR Champions League where they face Zimbabwean champions Dynamos in the first-leg at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
For their players, reaching this far is victory over an inferiority complex which stare them in the face every time they walk onto the park and say they are not good enough simply because they have failed to capture the interest of European clubs.
This makes their clash with Dynamos a clash of the survivors: both teams have not just survived against heavy odds stacked against them, but defied them.
With inflation hovering over 11 million and patience for formal ways of making money not a virtue among many Zimbabweans, Dynamos remained focused on their game and believed in themselves when no one else did.
The question that will be partly answered after 90 minutes on Sunday is who of the two survivors will be one step in a dream final that seemed far-fetched when the 2008 African Champions League campaign began early in the year. To reach the semis, Dynamos posted a sensational 1-0 over Egyptians Zamalek in their final group match in Harare. The Glamour Boys needed a dramatic last minute free-kick winner by substitute David Shoko which sparked off wild scenes of celebration in the Zimbabwean capital.
By Enock Muchinjo