By Angu Lesley
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon.
Legendary Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph Antoine Bell has revealed that the art of goalkeeping in Cameroon was revolutionized by the arrival of late Yugoslavian goalkeeper Vladimir Beara.
Speaking in a recent interview on a platform of African Football experts,African Football media, Bell said: Beara’s arrival was timely and influenced the standards of goalkeepers from the Central African nation.
“Cameroon…. land of goalkeepers!! Yes yes it is possible. They say ‘learning by looking at examples is easier’. I believe it has become easier for a young Cameroonian to be a good goalkeeper by looking up to the great goalkeepers. Take my case as an example, when I was young I was a good goalkeeper, Thomas Nkono was also a great goalkeeper. But, I am not sure that with just the potential we had we could have gone as far as we did. 1974 because luckily for us Cameroon contracted Vladimir Beara as goalkeeper trainer for the Lions. He came from Yugoslavia and was top and well known in Europe”.
The great Vladimir Veliki as he was popularly known had a successful 10 year career with the Yugoslavian national team between 1950-1960. He featured in the 1950,1958 and 1958 FIFA world cups.
Upon retirement, the elegant goalkeeper nicknamed ‘ballet dancer with the hands of steel’ because of his goalkeeping style went to Germany for his badges as a coach. By 1967, he was ready for the job.
He began in his homeland, claimed the 1971 Yugoslavian league title with Hajduk Split as assistant coach to Slavko Luštica. He left Slavko in 1972.
His quest for a new challenge saw him move to Cameroon in late 73’s as head coach of the Indomitable Lions replacing German gaffer Peter Schnittger.
According to Bell the Yugoslavian’s two years stint as Cameroon’s gaffer culminating with the arrival of Ivan Ridanovic in the four years after Beara defined the destiny of goalkeeping for Cameroonians.
“Beara really brought a lot to my game. I am sure Thomas Nkono will say the same thing. Yes he was the head coach but as a former goalkeeper this gentleman changed many things in our career. It is thanks to him that we developed the intimidating presence between the post. He met good goalkeepers but developed us technically and gave us the specific training and requirements of being a great goalkeeper. For me particularly he shaped my game”: Joseph Antoine Bell explained.
Beara and Thomas Nkono won the 1975 African cup winners cup with Tonnerre Kalara Club of Yaounde in an interesting two years stint. He certainly left his mark on the goalkeeping duo before returning to management in Europe.
“A good goalkeeper still has to be a lot like he was in my time. He has to have courage and self-confidence.” Beara once said. This surely justifies while these goalkeepers are arguably two of the best five keepers from Cameroon.
Bell also revealed Ridanovic who managed the lions in the next three years after Beara completed the evolution of Cameroonian goalkeepers.
“Beara taught us the techniques but when Ridanovic came he worked on our mental strength and that defined the destiny of goalkeeping for our generation. Well those who came after like Jacques Songo’o had the example in us and I think that process has continued till date. Probably that makes it easier for goalkeepers to succeed in Cameroon than in other countries where the examples are far away from them.
Just like late Beara, 65-year-old Joseph-Antoine Bell featured in three FIFA world cups and one Olympic games tournament. Bell went on to become one of the greatest goalkeepers from Africa.
The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) named Bell as the “African Goalkeeper of the Century”. His eternal rival Thomas Nkono was in second place while Tunisian goalkeeper Sadouk Sasi was voted third. Morocco’s Badou Zaki occupied the fourth place ahead of Congo’s Robert Kazadi Mwamba. Jacques Songo’o completed a trio of Cameroonian goalkeepers in the top six. These three Cameroonians owe it to Beara though only two of them directly worked with him.
Thomas Nkono went on to win the African footballer of the year twice (only goalkeeper to do so till date) , as well as inspired great Gianluigi Buffon
Bell, Songo’o and Nkono were Cameroon’s goalkeeping trio in multiple FIFA world cup tournaments.
Bell and Nkono passed the batten to Songo’o who later inspired Alioum Boukar, Alioum guided the arrival of Idriss Carlos Kameni who kept Cameroon’s goalkeeping seed of power before handing it to Fabrice Ondoa and Andre Onana who revived the Bell Joseph Antoine and Thomas Nkono of the old days.
On a sad note, Beara died in August 2014 but somewhere in Africa Joseph Antoine Bell amongst others still recognized his meaningful contributions.
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