By Rene Katche
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon.
On the 8th of June 1990, a modest Cameroon squad wowed the entire footballing fraternity with an impeccable brand of football. The Cameroon victory over defending champions Argentina remains arguably the biggest African triumph over a football super power. In fact, English commentator, Simon Burnton, described the game as a “Draconian” meeting between David and Goliath. David eventually won. He went further to say that “Argentina were left to wonder if the new roof of San siro had fallen on them.”
In fact, the Cameroon squad happened to be the most disorganized. Joseph Bell Antoine says, “we did not even have jackets and blouson to wear like the other teams that qualified for the world cup”,
“We had problems of match, and participation bonuses, and authorities tried hard to fuel problems amongst us. But we were united as a team”, Joseph Antoine Bell added.
The 1990 Cameroon squad was arguably the most patriotic constellation of footballers this country has ever produced. They did not only bring unprecedented respect and honour to Cameroon, but the entire continent. Joseph Antoine Bell said their greatest strength was the policy of all for one, and one for all.
Stephen Tataw and his compatriots stuck their necks out for the sake of fatherland. Who remembers the Benjamin Massing tackle on Claudio Caniggia?. It was the most symbolic manifestation of undiluted patriotism. Until his death in 2017, Massing was hated by Argentines but celebrated by Cameroonians for that famous tackle. In fact Massing died a day before the final of the Cup of Cameroon in that year but was not honored in the cup final.
Many have spent ample time talking about the June 7, 1990 victory over Argentina but many have also failed to lay emphasis on what has become of these unsung national heroes.
It is no secret that most of the 1990 Cameroonian foot soldiers today live in abject poverty. While their 1990 Argentine counterparts occupy juicy sports and leisure positions by the way of government recognition for their efforts, the majority of the 1990 Cameroon squad players are barely struggling to feed their families and send their children to school.
Louis Paul Mfede for instance died on June 10, 2013 jobless. During his last days on earth, went through pains and untold suffering. The most illustrious of them all, Albert Roger Milla seems to be the only one well-placed. Roving ambassador, Milla also advises President Biya on issues related to sports.
The captain, Stephen Tataw, is in the Nations capital Yaoundé. Rumors once killed him about 5 years ago, but all seems not too good for the one time emblematic skipper. Last year the new executive in Cameroon football appointed him national team supervisor but much is not heard from that office.
Joseph Antoine Bell is a traditional ruler in his village and also consultant with some international media outlets.
There are some who have decided on occupational mobility of labour. Eugene Ekeke has entered into business in Douala to make ends meet. Mbouh Emile, Roger Feutmba, Andre Kana Biyick and Cyrille Makanaky shuttle between Cameroon and other countries from time to fend for their families. One can imagine that, with the outbreak of the Coronavirus things will not be easy at all with them.
Becoming a football coach in Cameroon is as profitless as playing football in the country. Some have decided to stay back and manage their families with the meager salaries from some domestic clubs. Bertin Ebwelle is Stade Renard coach.
In order to meet up with their financial responsibilities at home, some have fruitlessly attempted politicking.
The times are hard. Jules Denis Onana, Maboang Kessack and Ndip Akem Victor are equally trying their hands on coaching and player management.
Omam Biyick applied several times to head the National team but could only be given assistant coaching position in his most recent attempt. Jacques Singo’o is goalkeeper trainer.
But perhaps the most successful of the last bunch could be Emmanuel Kunde and Thomas Libiih. Kunde won the Gabonese championship in 2003 with US Bitam as well as the Gabon Cup in 1999 and 2003 with the same outfit. However, the terrific centre back is now in Yaoundé where he is struggling to make ends meet.
Thomas Libiih guided the Cameroon U-17 lions to win the 2019 AFCON but was shown the door disrespectfully by the country’s football Federation after a failed 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil.
So, 30 years down the line, expectations amongst the Cameroon 1990 world cup cult heroes are still high. As we celebrate their heroics on this day, administrative, or sport authorities must do some real stock taking. This will shape their decision-making. Like the popular French maxim puts it; celebrons nous vivant!
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