By kick442.com – Cameroon
Now 65, enigmatic Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell is one of the greatest goalkeepers from the African continent.
Bell had a glittering career that lasted for two decades at home and abroad and won trophies at the highest level of the African continent with clubs and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
The native of Mouandé, in the Littoral region of Cameroon began his career with Eclaire of Douala, before moving to Oryx of Bali in the same City, a move West of the Mungo to join Prisons Social Club of Buea then followed. After showing what a top goalkeeper he was, he then secured a move to then precious Union Sportive of Deido, Douala in 1975.
He spent six years with Union of Douala, helping them to the Cameroon league title in 1976 and 1978 but above all winning the African Cup of Champions Cup, today known as the CAF Champions League in 1979.
In 1981, the all conquering Union won the Cup of Cameroon as well as the African Cup winners Cup.
Jojo, as he is popularly known left Union in 1981 to join Ivorian club Africa Sports of Abidjan, where he spent three years.
He won two Ivorian league titles and two domestic cup trophies, as well as two Houphouët Boigny Cups before making the trip up north to sign for Egyptian side Arab Contractors, then known as Al Mokawloon Al Arab.
The highly decorated goalkeeper claimed two more African Cup winners Cup medals with the Egyptian club as well as the Egyptian league title in his three-year stint with the club before moving to Europe in 1985.
He signed for French top flight club Olympique of Marseille. He made 109 league appearances for them in three seasons, helping them to a second place finish in the league in the 1986-1987 season.
He then moved to Toulon, where he spent one season before signing for Girondin of Bordeaux in 1989. He spent three seasons with Bordeaux, making 75 league appearances before moving to Saint-Etienne after three seasons.
He had three outstanding seasons at Saint-Etienne, making 99 league appearances.
Bell totaled over 300 top flight appearances in France before retiring from football at the age of 40.
With the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, of Cameroon, contrary to the popular opinion that he was always in the shadow of Thomas Nkono, Bell made some telling contributions in his 52 caps for Cameroon.
He only missed the first two games in Cameroon’s 1984 African Cup of Nations triumph.
In Cameroon’s second AFCON, triumph in 1988, Jacques Songo’o only played in the first game against Egypt, and Bell was Cameroon’s last man standing in their other four games, conceding just one goal.
He was part of the Indomitable Lions’ team for the 1982, 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups, though he only made his debut in the 1994 tournament, featuring in Cameroon’s first two games before making way for Songo’o in the 6-1 hammering from Russia.
He was also part of the Cameroon team that took part in the Summer Olympic Games in 1984 in the USA.
The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) named him 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.
Bell was always known for saying it as it is, which affected him on and off the pitch and continues to do so even after his playing days.
As a media consultant for locally and internationally, Joseph-Bell has always advocated for football for footballers, which explains why he has never hidden his ambition to preside over the Cameroon Football Federation or even coach the Cameroon national team.
His frank speaking and uncompromising reputation have certainly played a huge part in preventing him from attaining any of those dreams.
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