By Angu Lesley
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon.
From the streets of Yaounde to Nantes,Marseille, Leeds and other major cities in the world, Former Brasseries Academy prodigy René Salomon Olembe Olembe represents success in modern football.
After a short stint with Nassara FC,joined Diament Yaounde and later Brasseries Academy that took him to France for the Montaigu tournament were he caught the attention of Nantes and joined the club.
A vivid analysis of the arguably one of the greatest midfielders of the successful second great generation of the Indomitable Lions can’t be done without name of a man who was so good that they named him twice, Olembe Olembe.
From his dream international debut against England in London on the 15th November 1997 Olembe never looked back.
The Yaounde native appeared on the big time as a teenager days before his 17th birthday. He came on as a 73rd minute substitute for fellow debutant Lauren Etame in a game played at the empire stadium in London. England beat Vincent Onganzie on the Cameroon goal twice without reply that day but Cameroon had shown the world two young men with the world on their feets.
The 1.71M tall Salomon Olembe wasn’t one of the “mighty” men of a generation were the likes of Marc Vivienne Foe, Patrick Mboma, Raymond Kalla were perfect demonstration of the morphology required to be in the den.
Though he wasn’t gifted with the huge body build, the one-time defender had an unbelievable football brain.
Many qualified him as one of the most intelligent of his generation. His brilliance earned him a place in Cameroon’s squad for the 1998 AFCON in Burkina Faso.
It was the first for a handful of the players of that generation including the likes of Lauren Etame.
20 minutes into his AFCON debut, Olembe proved to be a great pick for coach Claude Leroy.
The midfielder peeled off his marker and sent in a fine left footed cross for Alphonse Tchami.
Tchami made no mistake, he buried the ball into the net to give Cameroon the lead and only goal of the game against host Burkina Faso.
Cameroon eventually won the game but more importantly, there was a 17-year-old “King” Salomon on his way to becoming Cameroon’s “king midfielder”.
Olembe followed that performance with a couple brilliant outings in that tournament.
Unfortunately for the little genius, his unbeaten Cameroon team couldn’t spark in the quarter final against DR Congo.They suffered a one nil defeat and were bundled out of the tournament.
The teenager returned to France, kept his form at Nantes and became a regular in the team.
His brilliance on the pitch earned him a place in the Cameroon squad that traveled to France for the 1998 FIFA world cup tournament.
Despite being a teenager Olembe made his world cup debut in that tournament in a 1-1 draw against Austria, aged 17 years, six months, and three days.
That appearance made him one of the youngest players to feature in a game in that tournament.
To date, he holds the record as the fourth youngest player to feature in the FIFA World Cup.
Though 1998 world cup was another failed outing for the Lions, Olembe left many with something to smile about. He had impressed in two of two competitions and was still a teenager.
By 2000, the indomitable lions hit their peak, same with Olembe.
The talented player joined coach Pierre Lechamp’s team with a winning mentality, he had won the 1999 French cup with Nantes.
Interestingly, Olembe took that winning touch to Ghana/Nigeria for the AFCON, Cameroon was ready to conquer.
The Brasserie football Academy graduate sparkled at the tournament. At the end of it all, Cameroon won the AFCON.That success was the first in national colors for Olembe who made three starts and featured in five games as he won his first trophy for country in just his third major tournament.
The former Diamant Yaounde genius returned to Nantes and continued working his magic under coach Raynald Denoueix.
In January 2002, the 1996 Montaigu tournament’s revelation left Nantes for Marseille. The move was days before he joined the rest of the Cameroon squad in that year’s AFCON tournament in Mali.
This time around at 22, “king” Salomon was a very wise midfield king in a very talented Cameroon team.
He shaped his country’s tournament, scoring thrice to help the Central African nation reach the summit of the continent. They retained the AFCON trophy without conceding a goal. Cameroon became the second team in the tournament’s history to win without conceding and Olembe was unstoppable.
That success put Olembe amongst the elites on the continent.
He was surprisingly left out the team of the tournament despite being the joined top scorer with Julius Agahowa and Patrick Mbome. He left Mali as a popular figure especially with his first-half brace against the host in the semi final.
The genuis continued in the same vain for the lions as he toured Europe from Marseille to Leeds United on loan before returning to the Veledrom after just a season, in 2004 and later to Wigan, Kayserispor amongst other clubs out of Europe.
His move to Leeds meant he arrived the lions Den in 2004 as one of the premier league stars in coach Wilfried Schaefer’s team. Unfortunately for team Cameroon it didn’t go as planned for the Lions.
They were eliminated in the quarter final by a Nigeria side inspired by Jay Jay Okocha.
Olembe kept his tricks but surprised many when he opted for a move to Qatari side Al-Rayyan Club in September 2005.
He returned to Marseille in the 2007 season and finished runners-up in the French club that same year he retired from international football after scoring five goals in 65 caps.
He later featured for Kayserispor in Turkey and Greece side Larissa before retiring in 2010.
In all, he had a career others could barely dream of.
Olembe featured in 295 competitive football games for club and country.
From Nassaras FC to Brasseries football Academy, to Diamant Yaounde and later securing a move to Europe through Montaigu 1996, Olembe had a successful career seducing great clubs along the line including the likes of FC Barcelona in 2004.
“King” Salomon the winner:
Solomon Olembe won five titles for club and country. He is a legend at Nantes and for Cameroon where he won all his trophies.
1999 & 2000:Back to back French Cup winner with Nantes
2000 & 2002 : Back to Back AFCON winner with Cameroon.
2001:French League Un winner with Nantes.
He was also runners-up in the 2007 French cup with Olympique Marseille.
He currently serves as the team manager of the senior national team of Cameroon. This is surely a wise “King” Salomon passing knowledge to the next generation of Cameroonian players.
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