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There was the Indomitable Lions

Blogue Camfoot

It was an easy pick to title this piece in line with Chinua Achebe’s „There was a country“ because, as we have witnessed things fall apart for the once revered Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, it is hard not to draw a parallel with the general trend of events that have transformed this once prosperous pride of Africa in to a failed state.

Le 26 juin 2014
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Cameroon football and the Indomitable Lions as an institution is just a microcosm and a direct representation of what obtains in the country and its socio-political set-up. It becomes therefore, a tough ask to try to understand the failures of the Indomitable Lions without a contextual appreciation of the bigger picture, which is the state of decay in the modus operandi of the country it represents. However, as the world is caught up in the Brazuca fever and, Cameroonians and fans of Cameroon football hide their face in shame while trying to make any sense of the embarrassing showing of their superstars in Brazil 2014, I will chose to look at the (In ?)domitable Lions themselves in an attempt to understand our fall from grace. And see, this cannot be a completely flawed premise because, even though the corruption and bad management between the ministry and the federation have stayed fairly the same across generations, the handling and VIP treatment of the national team players have improved considerably.

The players, led by their captain Samuel Eto’o testified to that in the build up to, and post South Africa 2010. But, in spite of these improved working conditions vis-à-vis their predecessors, performance and return on the green grass have been in perpetual decline.

Success has a million siblings, so it is of no surprise that the Indomitable Lions has the biggest world wide following of all African teams. That huge fan-base was earned by the jaw dropping exploits of Lions of past generations such as Roger Albert Milla, Thomas (black spider) N’kono, Patrick Dem (Pat-magique) Mboma, Rigobert Song (Rigo-song Magnang !) amongst others who were part of the golden generations from the 80’s to early 2000’s. Those real Indomitable Lions represented the flag, the shirt and the badge with heart, pride and honour. They displayed a brand of scintillating football with a grit and passion that captivated the imagination of the neutral observer ….. against all odds ! But what has become of the team ?

After the failure to qualify for Germany 2006 and the passing over of the baton from the last golden generation, it has been the same recurring sad story of one disappointment to the next. The first major sign of the free fall was highlighted in South Africa 2010, where of the 32 teams in the tournament, only North Korea did worse than Cameroon. The poor showing was blamed on in-fighting between clans within the team. The fans took it on the chin and expected the team to pick up and move on but, as we know, and learning from past mistakes is inherently not Cameroonian. And what followed next was the subsequent failure to qualify for two consecutive African Cup of Nations. I thought I had seen it all, but I was wrong !

As an ardent and fervent football follower, I had learned better than to expect much from this version of the Indomitable Lions by way of results. So, going into Brazil 2014, with all the usual off-the-field brouhaha surrounding the team, I was sure that it would be déja-vu all over again. I had vowed that for the sake of my heart, I’ll not get emotionally involved this time.

But how could I not ?

Never has the old adage that failure is a bastard been so wrong, were my first thoughts, as I saw drones of passionate Cameroon fans cloaked in the famous GRY, singing the national hymn with such pride and effervescence that I could only wish would trickle down to the eleven prima-donnas in the green theatre deep in the amazon. Finally, I found myself all lonely in my hither-to, well equipped “don’t give a f***” mansion.

They must be riding in the momentum of past glory, I thought, but alas, that momentum was too strong to resist and, before I knew it, there was the son of Tabu dusting out the old Indomitable Lions shirt from the wardrobe, the 2008 version. It took only 180 minutes of football though, for me to feel like I was making love again to that ex girlfriend whom I had called a devil and sworn never to touch again even with a pool stick.

Hindsight is a bitch, aint it ?

Granted they didn’t play well and lost the first game but, somehow, there was still an iota of hope that they’ll redeem self in the next. And let me tell you, when I talk of self redemption, it’s not about them winning a game. I knew they could not ! All I wanted to see was a performance befitting that of a Lion ; with heart, pride, honour, passion and fight. And fight they served us indeed ! Just it was the kind of fight that only brought shame, ridicule and embarrassment to the good people of Cameroon and its well wishers.

Head-butting your own team mate ? We’re not cavemen too ? And Alexandre Song lost his mind. What was he thinking ?

I know his uncle Rigobert Song made getting sent off his regular world cup song, but with that elbow, Alex has just made it a family hate-swan song and a Cameroon shame song.
At the end of that infamous game against Croatia, a look across the faces of the fans of the once Indomitable Lions told a story of deception, lost love, sadness and regret in the scale of Corporal Tina as portrayed by Thomas Hardy in the Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion. At that point, it dawned to me finally again, that Cameroon football has lost its soul. I was sure that we have hit rock bottom, irrespective of how Brazil 2014 would eventually turn out. The town crier has rung the bell to announce the death of the lion.

Once, there was the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, how did we lose it ?

Reasons that have led to this demise are many and varied. I would not pretend that I know any more than other Cameroonians about this team, but I will try to call it the way I see it. Some observers blame it on the lack of talents, lack of sports infrastructure in the country, corruption and mismanagement in the ministry and federation etc. But, I will stick my head out and put the blame directly on the heads of the players. Their attitude, their commitment to the cause, greed, ego and lack of the “Hemlè Njè” (lion spirit, in Bassa).

I vehemently refuse to believe that these players lack the talent to deliver. These are boys on big money contracts with top European clubs and, anyone who understands anything about the football business knows that the top clubs do not pay top money for players lacking the requisite talent. They deliver top performances for club, but come to represent the country, they flop. I refuse to accept that corruption and poor management can explain for the embarrassment we get from this version of the Lions because, as I mentioned earlier, their predecessors conquered Africa and the world under worse conditions.

The spoilt brat attitude, greed and ego of this bunch started showing its ugly face in South Africa 2010 over a poisoned chalice in the form of a piece of cloth called the captains arm band, as it was unceremoniously handed over from the “capitaine emblematque” to the “enfant terrible de New Bell”. Clans started forming within the team, infighting and flexing of eto’o, … errrrmm … *cough cough*, ego I meant, became the norm. Since then, they have cared about and fought for every other thing, save the football that they are called and paid to play and the flag and shirt that they pledge to defend.

In its myopic effort to bring serenity while papering over the cracks, the federation has resorted to the hiring and firing of “white jesuses” and with it opening up whole new can of worms. I do not believe that these overpaid foreign coaches necessarily bring any added edge to our game. Does the fact that no country has ever won the world cup with a foreign coach mean a thing ? Does the fact that when Cameroon won their only world title (Sydney Olympics 2000), they did so with a Cameroonian coach (Jean Paul Akono) ring any bells ? In terms of tactical savvy, I am not sure that any local coach could do any worse than Volker Finke had to offer from the bench in Brazil. Looking at the clueless demeanour he cut on the sidelines, and the puke his bunch of clowns were dishing on the world stage, it is hard not to think that he randomly picked eleven strangers, sent them onto the field and told them …. “the Lord be with you”.

Having said that, the buck still stops with the players. As a furious Giovanni Trapattoni once said (in broken German) as head coach of Bayern Munich, “Spieler mussen versuchen alleine die Spiel gewinnen”, which loosely translated means, it is the responsibility of the players to try and win the game. And, I concur ! Key word here is try and, that is what this version of Indomitable Lions don’t bother doing. They try to strike the best deal for their bonuses, they try to get their bonuses before a ball is even kicked, they try to fly first class and lodge in the best hotels, they try to prove to each other who the boss is, they try, they try, they try, to do every other thing but to win a game of football for Cameroon.

Back in the day, the Indomitable Lions will cry when they fail to win a game or let the flag down. But today, this version will refuse to receive the flag and will be seen laughing, hugging and posing for the camera with the enemy after a public humiliation.

Seeing these boys play make me feel like they think they are on holiday and want to seize the opportunity to show off their new gadgets and massage their over inflated ego while making a few more benjamins. They cut the figure of a disjointed group with a laissez-fair attitude devoid of any sense of responsibility and leadership.

The so-called “generation Eto’o” was christened in 2010 when the baton of leadership a.k.a captain arm band was controversially and back-handedly transferred from Rigobert to Samuel. Arguably the most talented and successful African player ever, it was expected that his world wide success and exploit will translate into sustainable success through his leadership on and off the field. The highest goal scorer in the history of Cameroon and in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, there is no doubt that Sammy has more than paid his dividends with his boots but, scratch deeper and you’ll see the devil. Under his leadership there have been more in-fighting within the team than ever before. Fractions and clans have bred within than ever before. Off the field squabbles have become the fingerprints of his leadership and on the field results have never been worse. I can not testify to the character of the person but, one thing is clear, all those problems have had one common denominator – our very own pitchichi. And let me tell you, a divisive character cannot make for a good leader and a team without a good leader has no soul.

In the Cameroonian fan-base, you are either a member of the Eto’o choir or you are a hater – no middle ground. If you are in the football federation, then, you are either dying for El-Dandy or you are trying to kill him. If you are a member of the media, you either worship him or do not deserve to live. If you are his team mate, you are either playing for him or deliberately not passing him the ball. All the off field fighting around the team and the leader especially has been hyper destructive and unnecessary distractions sapping away vital energy, focus and team spirit.

As far as I am concerned, Eto’ o and his generation have betrayed the Cameroonian people. They have killed the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and, it is time we cut our losses.

So, what next ? Nothing !!

We may be last and worst team at Brazil 2014, but the players had already won the world cup of bonuses in Yaounde long before going to the big dance. Fans will still be hurting and cursing trying to find answers. They will be smiling all the way to the bank. They will go on luxury holiday and prepare themselves to go back to their various clubs where their allegiance lies.

For the players, it will be business as usual, and as the French man would say, " les chiens aboient, la caravane passe !"

By, Emile Tabu Ojong, a.k.a Sir Tabu, a.k.a Thelastoneleft
SIR TABU is a regular contributor of Foé Camfoot Forum since October 2003.


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  • Le 17 juillet 2014 à 16:04, par lastfight En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

    Very interesting article. Just right on. What this team needs is a complete house cleaning. Bring in the local players and Eto must go. If nothing changes as I suspect, then this is indeed a failed state and a banana republic. This country is seriously ill. Infected from the very top. Why did we think anything good can come from this. Pure insanity and what a shame we all must have felt.

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  • Le 27 juin 2014 à 14:08, par pep4lions En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

    Good write up. Carefully thought out and well conceived. After the catastrophic and shameful performance from our Lions I did not know where to start if I had to say something. In the past, with even a mediocre management from the administration the Lions have produced results. But this generation is taking Cameroonians for granted, playing over our sentiments and thinking we are idiots. A « broom cleaning » is absolutely needed on the management as well as on the players side.

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  • Le 27 juin 2014 à 11:30, par Bryce En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

    Great message ; this explain why this team is falling deeper year after year.
    I guess nothing will be done to correct all the problems and with next competition coming up the same effect will produce the same result.
    If and only if Cameroon had a leader.......
    None of this will happen time after time

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  • Le 27 juin 2014 à 11:08, par flavio En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

    You see what I said Mr. Ojong. They did not understand a thing. Any time you are not on their side you are corrupt. Pay no attention bro. Keep it up........What a curse of a country !!!

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  • Le 27 juin 2014 à 00:58, par ck En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

    Great write up. Thanks.

    • Le 27 juin 2014 à 03:12, par Cyrabelle En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

      Ton article pue la corruption !...
      DU PUR N’IMPORTE QUOI !!...

      ON VOUS L’A DEJA DIS !!!... ON EST PAS DUPE !!!.. VOUS DECONNEZ GRAVE LA !... CAMFOOT VOUS FETES DONC PARITE DE CEUX QUI ASSOMBRISSENT, QUI HYPOTHEQUE LE FOOTBALL CAMEROONAIS !!... C’EST MALHEUREUX ET HONTEUX DE VENDRE SON PAYS DE CETTE MANIERE !!!

      DEHORS LES DIRIGEANT DE LA FECAFOOT ET DU MINISTERE. IL FAUT DU SANG NEUF ?

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  • Le 27 juin 2014 à 01:40, par flavio En réponse à : There was the Indomitable Lions

    My goodness...You brought everything together with this write up. This is the best article I have ever read on Camfoot. You just made all the other contributor look mediocre. It is a pity that more than 80% of reader of this forum won’t appreciate this piece of writing because they won’t understand a thing... Pathetic country. Keep it up Mr. Ojong. We shall always be here to benefit from ur talent.

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