Indomitable Lions Back From The Dead
By Akanjo Monekosso Jr.
‘An elephant which kills a rat is not a hero.’ That is the take-home message from the 19 November 2014 Ivory Coast – Cameroon match at the Houphet Boigny Stadium.
The Ivorians had been thrashing petit nations and celebrating as if they discovered football, forgetting that the Lion does not turn around when small dogs bark. That Kolo Touré, instructed his team mates to keep the ball during extra time till the end of the match, even with a 10-man Cameroon team, summarises the plot. The tactic was so disgusting that Ivorian coach, French-born Hervé Rénard, left the dugout before the end of the encounter.
As our people say, ‘When an elephant is in trouble, even a frog will kick him.’ So, after the World Cup 2014 walloping in the hands of Mexico, Croatia and Brazil, the people who were saying things to the corpse of the Lion can no longer say them. The figures speak for themselves: 6 matches, 4 victories, 2 draws, 1 goal conceded, 9 goals scored, 14 points and a +8 goal difference.
Kolo Touré and his men, come second, far with 10 points. The only adjective that could describe Volker Finke’s boys is; staggering. The credit fully goes to him.
On June 25, 2014, President Biya instructed Prime Minister Yang, who later instructed Secretary General Motaze, to take one month off their busy schedule to probe into the World Cup fiasco of the Indomitable Lions. All the stakeholders who travelled to Brazil were served summonses to appear before the Motaze commission at the Star Building. Owona, Finke, Eto’o, journalists, civil servants, among others, all reported to the Star Building. Even the cook of the Indomitable Lions had to empty his basket.
The crimes against them were many: refusal to receive the flag from the hands of the PM at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, refusal to board the Angolan-stamped aircraft leased for their transportation, the poor results recorded in the World Cup and the despicable scene witnessed wherein players were fighting on the pitch. But before they all came to answer for their crimes, FECAFOOT and MINSEP sent individual reports to the Motaze Commission. Biya also instructed Yang, who instructed Motaze, to formulate proposals for the overhaul of the football sector in Cameroon.
At the end of the inquiry, Motaze sent a copy of his report to Yang, who perused and forwarded to Biya who kept a copy on his desk. Recommendations of the report were never officially published, but actions started speaking louder than words. After all, you do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. Those pessimists who started whining that Biya wants to distract the people are now reaping the fruits of the Motaze commission.
The first move was maintaining Volker Finke at the head of the team and blending it with two assistants: Alexandre Grégoire Belinga and Bonaventure Djouonkep. Alioum Boukar was made new trainer for the goal keepers. Martin Ntoungou Pile and Jacques Songo’o were axed. A new team press officer in Vincent de Paul Atangana was brought in and Raphael Nkoa sacked. Rigobert Song, who did not teach his nephew, Alex Song, good habits was also shown the door and replaced with Alphonse Tchami.
A leader who does not take advice is not a leader. Biya was implementing the resolutions at the speed of light.
And given that patience can cook a stone, almighty 33-year-old Douala-born Samuel Eto’o, was finally kicked out of the national team unceremoniously like Malaria is kicked out in Ekona. That was the last stroke that broke camel’s neck. As the people of Kiga in Uganda say “Akati kinikwa kakiri kabisa”, in English “A stick is straightened while still young.” Eto’o was too old to be straightened, so, 28-year-old Stephane Mbia Etoundi was ushered in. Enoh Eyong and Nicolas Nkoulou were also axed but kept in the team. Aboubakar and Choupou replaced them. According to sources, Nkoulou and Eyong are still in the team, thanks to Volker Finke. But also, they were demoted because of their inability as Vice Captains to shut up Eto’o who was slippery like mud fish. Even if Eto’o goes to Prohet TB Joshua for cleansing and prayers, he would never be readmitted into the national team. Come to think of it, he had already prophesised that he had two more World Cups under his belt; maybe with another national team.
If you want to kill an owl, do not look at its eyes. Hence, the breeze of change could not spare any man. Reconstruction was the final recommendation in the report Biya jealously kept in his office.
Volker Finke was tasked with reconstructing the national team, for it to gain the respect and honour of yesteryears. He was told to get the players he wants and that no weapon fashioned against him will prosper. Fresh blood was injected into the team and new and young players arrived: 18-year-old Fabrice Ondoua, 20-year-old Jerome Guihoata, 23-year-old Oyongo Bitolo, 23-year-old Frank Kom, 21-year-old Edgar Salli, 21-year-old Clinton Njie, 24-year-old Frank Etoundi (brother of team captain) and so on. The motto was reconstruction, but if we can have results, let’s do it. We are qualified without all those black heads. The Lions’ fighting spirit is back. And the nation is once more proud of its national team.
In an interview granted to RFI, on November 17, 2014, Jean Bruno Tagne, journalist at Le Jour, and writer of “Programmés pour échouer” said, “The sidelining of Samuel Eto’o has solved 90 percent of the problems of the national team (...) Volker Finke has understood how things happen in Cameroon.” When Eto’o was team captain (2009-2014), here are some of the things that went wrong: in June 2010; first team to be eliminated from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, on September 8, 2010; Eto’o reconciles with Roger Milla and Iya after their feud, in November 2011; Eto’o leads a strike not to play the friendly against Algeria because of unpaid match bonuses, on December 16, 2011, Eto’o gets a 15-match ban for refusing to play a friendly, on January 12, 2012; the 15-match ban was trimmed to 8-match ban after Presidential intervention, on August 27; Eto’o refuses to play the Cameroon versus Cap Verde match, dubbing football in Cameroon amateurish and poorly organised. PM Yang begged him and he played the return leg. That year, Cameroon failed to qualify for the Nations Cup, on March 23, 2012; Eto’o scored his first goal in 16 months, against Togo, Kameni accuses Eto’o of being the reason why he is not shortlisted, Alex Song and Eto’o brawl follows, Eto’o rejects the substitution of Choupo Moting by Javier Clemente, in May 2014, Nathalie Koah accuses Eto’o of using her like a rag and dumping her in a prison cell, June 2014; Eto’o organises yet another bonus strike, Cameroon is eliminated from the FIFA World Cup 2014, he plays only one match against Mexico, on August 27, 2014; Eto’o retires from international soccer with his tail between his legs. As our ancestors say, always being in a hurry does not prevent death; neither does going slowly prevent living. However long the night, the dawn will break.