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Stephen Tataw : « We Worked Hard for the Victory »
Stephen Tataw, Captain of the Lions for the 1990 expedition, goes back memory lane


« When we were in Yugoslavia, for example, Roger Milla, wasn’t in the squad. When we heard that he was to join the team, several players, especially the attackers, were not happy. They said Roger was an old player and could not square with younger ones. However, when Roger started training with us, he was unique. His play style was exceptional. We all agreed that Roger should be in the team. »

Le 10 juin 2005

It is now 15 years since you led the Indomitable Lions to the memorable 1990 World Cup expedition in Italy...

Exactly. The 8th of June 1990 was a very special day. We beat the then world champion, Argentina, 1-0. It’s a good souvenirs. We were heroes of the world on that day.

What did it take to put on such a wonderful performance ?

Good preparation. We went to France and then to Yugoslavia, where we ended our training before going to Italy. The coach, Valery Nepomniachi, also did a good job. We watched previous matches of Argentina. But, we were a bit scared about facing the best team in the world and playing against the best player, Diego Maradona.

There was a lot of controversy around the team prior to the match ?

Yes. When we were in Yugoslavia, for example, Roger Milla, wasn’t in the squad. When we heard that he was to join the team, several players, especially the attackers, were not happy. They said Roger was an old player and could not square with younger ones. However, when Roger started training with us, he was unique. His play style was exceptional. We all agreed that Roger should be in the team. The only person who brought problems was Joseph Antoine Bell, the goalkeeper who was expected to play the opening match against Argentina. He made negative declarations with regards to the team and our preparation and this affected the morale of some players. Bell said our preparation was not good, and that we were going to play just to limit the number of goals which we were going to concede. The Minister of Sports and other administrators who were present decided to keep him aside. And that is how Thomas Nkono came in. And on June 8th, those of us who had to defend the national colours went in with confidence and you people saw the results ...

Some people say it was good luck ?

(Broad smile) I don’t think it was good luck. We worked hard for it and merited the victory. You should give us credit for that (laughs). It was not an easy match. Two of our players, Andre Kana Biyick and Benjamin Massing, were even sent off the pitch. But we won playing nine against 11. Above all, the fact that the Head of State, President Paul Biya, was present on the field was a great motivation. For some of us, just looking at the Head of State sitting there and watching us, gave us extra energy to work harder.

Bringing down the giant certainly had an impact on your subsequent matches ?

Yes. Just after that match, we saw ourselves as world champions (laughs). And the results were there to show. If you look at the matches : Argentina, Columbia, until we got to England, you would accept with me that our play style improved as we progressed in the competition. The match against England at the quarter final, that led to our elimination, was our best. We were leading England, 2-1, five minutes to the end of the match. Then there was this penalty... and they scored the equaliser. This led to prolongation. We lost concentration. We spent time thinking why things had to turn against us at the last minute. We panicked. It was then that England scored it’s third and winning goal. Some people blame the coach for failing to tell us to be cautious. I don’t think so. We had everything in control. There was no reason for us to change our pace. We told ourselves that we had walked on the English and that was it (laughs).

Do you think you could have gone further in the competition ?

Of course. I actually thought that we could reach the final !. The fact that other teams feared us, was an indication that we could go very far. The German coach declared that he would prefer to play against England, instead of Cameroon in the semi final. This meant we already had a psychological advantage over the Germans. We would have had an easy ride over them in the semi-final. And, hopefully, I thought we would have brought home the cup (big smile) !

Some Cameroonians say England used « black magic » ?

(Laughs) I don’t think so. Most people think England won because they changed the ball. That has no place in football because, nowadays, immediately the ball goes out of the pitch, you bring in a new one. That was superstition.

What about the white dove which people said entered the pitch ?

I didn’t see any white dove when I was playing. But I heard about most of these things after. But as I said, we lost like any other team.

Some people also claim that Cameroon took along a magician or « witch doctor » who forecast a 2-1 victory in favour of Cameroon ?

We did not take any witch doctor with us. You know people have their own way of expressing themselves. With us, there was never a thing like that.

Why is it that till this day, the Lions have never gone beyond the 1990 performance ?

That is the game of football. But the Indomitable Lions would always have the same goal : defend our country, bring glory to our country and take our football to higher heights. Before we reached the quarter finals in 1990, our seniors played before then and did not go that far. We just need a lot of work with the current national team to get to the 1990 level. It is not like they cannot do it. It needs a lot of work, a lot of seriousness in the administration, the coaching, the players, etc. They have the potential, they can do what we did and even better.

But their qualification for the World Cup is not even certain ?

It is true that we have had ups and downs. This is very normal for a football team. Those who have never played football will not understand. But like an old person in the game, there are times things don’t move the way we want. Personally, I remain optimistic. What is important is that we put our heads and work together to give these young guys all the support they need. This will propel them to make the good results which all Cameroonians are expecting. The last match we played against Benin was wonderful. I believe we can make it to World Cup 2006. We are just two points away form the leaders of the group, Côte d’Ivoire. We just have to win all our three games now to qualify.

Your appointment into the administrative bench of the Lions is seen as a desire to see the team regain it’s winning spirit. What do you think ?

I thank the Head of State, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Sports and Physical Education for this confidence. I thank Cameroonians who have been very supportive to the team without which we wouldn’t have achieved much. I am here to bring in seriousness, hard work, enthusiasm and to help these young ones go further ; achieve like us and even more.

Anything to do with your personal style ?

Maybe. I have been very honest with myself. I am very hard working and also well disciplined. These are the qualities that I want to pass over to the boys in the current national team.

What lessons can you draw from your rich football experience.

We did it. It is history. The history came because of hard work. Hard work is the key. It has always been like that and it will continue to be so. To make it, you have to work very hard. That is what I am telling the young ones in the national team.

TCHE Irene MORIKANG, Cameroon-Tribune



Vos commentaires

  • Le 12 juillet 2005 à 09:17, par Nforcho Jibuin En réponse à : > Stephen Tataw : « We Worked Hard for the Victory »

    just a word of encouragement and appreciation for the commendable job you guys are doing. Infact, since the birth of this site, we’re well fed with events about the national team, the elite league, our players (home & abroad),etc. This keeps us warm and intouch with the football saga at home. It’s really wonderful what the entire production team is doing and I can assure you that it’s one of the most accessed site by by football loving fans here in Brussels.
    Keep it up !

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