By Rene Katche
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon
Who is the most deadly Cameroonian striker of all time???
Fans, pundits and players have hotly debated this question from generation to generation, for the past four decades.
But once upon a time, Cameroon had a phenomenal striker; Eugene Ekoulé alias Samangwana. Veteran Sports reporter Njomo Kevin has described Ekoulé as “a level headed but the most complete striker of his generation”.
The name Eugène Ekoulé is synonymous with the “joga bonita”, with dauntless ability, with ingenious sleights of foot and with a fantastic goal scoring record. ” Ekoulé was highly feared by our opponents..anytime opponents saw him on the pitch, their hearts would begin panting”, Kamga Paul, one of the striker’s former team mates and closed friend revealed.
Eugene Ekoulé remains one of Cameroon’s greatest strikers of all time, and has an enviable record. He became and is still the only striker to have scored a record 19 goals in 8 matches of the African Winners cup competition, what is today known as the CAF Confederations Cup. Former Union Sportive president Prince Ngassa Happi said “when i signed Ekoulé, I had no doubt he was going carve a niche for himself on the continent.. he was a goal machine”.
Born on the 25th of June 1954 in Douala, Eugene Ekoulé began his football career with Eclair de Douala in 1971. He offered his services to Eclair until 1973 when he moved over to Caiman of Douala. He played with Caiman between 1974 and 1976 becoming best scorer in the national division one championship in 1975, before he was loaned out to Tonnere Kalara Club of Yde for a special assignment.
Ekoulé was on a mission to help Tonnere win the maiden edition of the African winners cup competition in 1976.
Replacing Albert Roger Milla who had just left the club for greener pastures, Eugene Ekoulé would reach his first continental final with Tonnerre, when they got defeated by Shooting Stars FC of Nigeria 4-2. It was the beginning of sunshine for the Douala native.
Thanks to his incredible domestic and continental exploit, Ekoulé was signed in 1977 by one of Cameroon’s biggest clubs Union Sportive of Douala.
The goal machine was at the peak of his form in Union between 1977 and 1982 during which he won a domestic double; notably the national division one championship and Cameroon Cup in 1990 and emerging best scorer of the season. “At the time, only one striker was very powerful with air borne dwells and that was Manga Onguene…When Ekoulé emerged, he was the talk of the country. Many news papers reported the arrival of a deadly striker”, Njomo Kevin noted.
But even before then, Eugene Ekoulé had put Union on the summit of African football when he helped Nassara Gamakai win the CAF champions league in 1979 against Hearts of Oak of Ghana.
With such an incredible performance Ekoulé proved he was an elite of the game. A genius and a master of his craft. His former team mate Kamga Paul said he was “he had the ability to influence and calm tension. This greatly helped us to win the 1979 CAF champions league against a very serious opponent, Accra Hearts of Oaks”.
The years have gone by, but the memories still remain fresh in the mind of the author of Cameroon’s last Continental club success. He describes his exploits with Union as “simply magical”.
In a hostile ear piercing Surelele stadium in Lagos, Unions Sportive of Douala captained by Eugene Ekoulé stunned Stationery Stores FC 2-1 to win the coveted trophy. ” I remember we arrived Lagos a few days before the match, but we were not allowed to train… I plaited a rastal on my head intentionally to deceive the Nigerians j wasn’t present in Lagos for the game. Peter Rofai and his team mates were all shocked when they saw my name on the line up”, Ekoulé revealed.
Immediately after the final, the then Cameroon President Amadou Ahidjo sent a military air craft to come and pick the Cameroon team.
“the atmosphere was very hostile..we had just beaten them in their country. Tins of tomatoes and other projectiles were thrown on us”, Kamga Paul.
“When president Ngassa Happi whispered to my ear that President Ahidjo had ordered for a military plane to come and pick us in Lagos, I heaved a heavy sigh of relief”, Ekoulé.
With 19 goals in 8 matches Ekoulé was top goal scorer of the tournament. In 1982, he was called up to the national team where he took part in the 1982 African Cup of Nations in Tripoli, Libya. Cameroon were eliminated in the first round with 3 draws.
In spite of his impressive performance, Eugene Ekoulé was ignored for the 1982 World *cup*.
“His non call up for the 1982 World cup in Spain broke Ekoulé psychologically,”
In fact, I can even say it precipitated his early retirement from the game. Everyone body was disappointed, because apart from Milla, there was no one who could really match up with the goal scoring stamina of Eugène Ekoulé “, Njomo Kevin.
He decided to join Dihep de Nkam in 1983 where he helped them to win the 1984 Cameroon Cup against his former club Union Sportive of Douala. He played with Dihep until his retirement from the game in 1984. ”
Ekoulé gave it his best shot in football, winning several trophies for his country, but today the one time super star remains an unsung hero.
“No one cares if I exist again..one time, I was very sick and no one could even have the courtesy of finding out what was happening to me. I feel so bad that in spite of all I did for this country, I have almost nothing to be proud of. But there is a God”, Ekoulé bemoans.
With very bitter memories, watching or even talking about football seems to be a no go area, and the unsung hero believes the right people must be put in the right place for the country’s football to reverberate again.
“Selfish and lack of love for the game has blocked the brains of our modern football leaders in Cameroon. In those days, passion for football used to guide our leaders. If the right people are not allowed to occupy the leadership of our football, things will hardly change”, Ekoulé cautions.
Veteran Njomo Kevin decried the poor treatment on former footballers, but added that ” the greatest glory lies not in falling, but in rising whenever we fall”.
The unsung hero, Eugène Ekoulé has left his doors wide open, waiting to be consulted to contribute his own quota to the reverberation of Cameroon football.
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