By Muambo Edward
Football Writer, kick442.com – Cameroon
Name: Lionel Abate Etoundi
Date of Birth: September 25, 2000 In: Yaoundé
Current Club: Real Monarchs
Previous Club: AS Fortuna
Caps: Cameroon Youth International
Who is Lionel Abate Etoundi?
Lionel Abate Etoundi is a young Cameroonian forward under the guidance and care of Rainbow Sports Investments who played for Real Monarchs in the USL [The US second tier] last season and won the league.
You just said ‘who played for Real Monarchs’ does it mean you have switched clubs already?
For now I am still with Real Monarchs but my team is working on a possible move so for now I can’t tell whether I will go back to Real Monarchs or not.
But I am open to any eventuality.
How did your move go Real Monarchs come about?
A team of scouts from the US followed me up for a while and they were convinced of my abilities and potentials so they got me the move to Real Monarchs.
What role did Rainbow Sports Investments[RSI] play to make this happen?
They were the ones who brought the scouts to watch me and I have been working with them now for two years.
How did you get in touch with RSI?
Firstly a player doesn’t go to them, to the best of my knowledge, they come towards you and to me it was a good choice to accept what they offered me as a career project, it’s for you the player to judge whether it’s a good project for you and personally till this moment I have no regrets and I have not been disappointed by what they have done for me so far. I am very satisfied.
At the time RSI spotted me, it was a complicated period in my career with the dilemma to make a right career choice amongst many options on the table and I think RSI had the best that’s why I chose them over the rest.
So how does it work, they get you a club and that’s it or are they present in your career on a day to day basis?
They are present on a daily basis, following up what we do, help us in our integration, they try to put you in the best possible conditions to make you succeed. I am very proud to be part of the great RSI family. They have a wonderful group of people working for them.
Tell us something about this, when you sign your contract, as a player under the RSI umbrella, do they pose certain conditions or control what you get?
Normally, no contract is signed without the player going through all the details and making sure that things are done according to prior arrangements.
In my case everything was done on the table, I went through the contract, approved before signing and that is what I think happened to the others because I have spoken to the other players. So I have not been a victim of any contract signed in my back or conditions imposed or anything of that nature and I believe the same is the case with the other players.
How can you describe your relationship with RSI, do you have an honest and straightforward working relationship with them?
It’s a family relationship and it will continue to be like this for as long as I can think and I will not say I have an honest and straightforward relationship with them because it is there, I live it on a daily basis. It has always been honesty from day one. When it’s hard we say it and when it good we say it. So we are on my career’s journey together.
You were born and grew up in Yaoundé, were French is the main working language, how did you cope with life in the US and the language barrier?
In the beginning it wasn’t easy, the club provided me with an English teacher, my teammates were always there to help, I was hugely supported by the club to overcome any difficulties I faced especially the language barrier.
There are more than 10 Cameroonian players in the USL, what is really attractive about the USL to you and the others?
First of all it’s a very competitive championship, one might have the impression that because it is in the US it is not a good Championship, but that is far from being the case.
Secondly, for young African players like me, it is a good platform to progress because most of us lack the tactical discipline and physical preparedness to go straight into a top a European championship, directly from an African league.
Do you keep in touch with your compatriots in the USL?
Of course, we are a big family, most of us are under the Rainbow Sports Investment umbrella, so it’s a big family and we share our day-to-day lives and experiences together. We call, we text, we share meals, almost on daily basis, we are together.
How can you sum up season with Real Monarchs on a personal note, as Lionel Abate..?
On a personal note I can say that I had a very successful season, it was my first professional contract as a young player in a club with big ambitions. I had to make myself accepted and respected by the group and I did my best to achieve all of that, because I became an integral part of the team respected and accepted by my teammates.
Also I succeeded to integrate the professional milieu of football with the help of my teammates, as you must know it’s a very complicated milieu. So after achieving all of that I think on a personal note I had a successful season.
What was the role played by coach Jamison Olave to your integration into the team?
Coach Jamison is a great guy, he communicates a lot with the players. He walked up to me and said you are a young player, I want you in my team, but I will only give playing time progressively, you just have to focus on your game and work hard.
It was not all rosy Lionel there were some difficult moments, I remember the suspension after the red card against San Antonio…
It’s true we were playing away against San Antonio, I started the game, and in one of the early actions the goalkeeper comes out and I kick him and I was sent off.
You missed a couple of games because of that how did you cope with that?
As a player you always want to be out there playing, so it was hard, but the coach quickly put his arms around me and said, it’s ok, it’s football just get over it, pick yourself up and come back stronger and that was very encouraging and comforting for me.
What are your career objectives?
I wish to work as hard as I can to get to the top. I will keep working and try to make sure that in the years ahead people talk about Lionel Abate for the right reasons.
What is your dream club?
My dream club is the best club in the world, If Real Madrid comes for me I will gladly jump and sign, I have no particular preference for a particular club because there are many big clubs out there.
If they come too I will not hesitate, [laughs] but the most important is for me to be focused and work hard so that I can attract the best, I am a player available for all the clubs, with no particular preference.
As a child growing up in the streets of Yaoundé, which player(s) made you dream?
Naturally Samuel Eto’o, as a child I always dreamt of playing like Samuel Eto’o, he is my idol of idols. Also there is Lionel Messi, the best player in the world. I will give everything and anything to play against or with him one day in one of the great Stadiums, but that is a far cry, I must acknowledge.
You have been a Cameroon international at youth level, what do you envisage for yourself when it comes to the Cameroon national teams going forward?
I have played for the U-20s and U-23s at the age of 19, but my ultimate goal is to get into the senior national team and I think it’s achievable, I just have to keep working because with hard work nothing is impossible.
With the 2021 AFCON coming to Cameroon, do you in your wildest dreams imagine yourself defending Cameroon in that competition with your family and friends in the stands?
It’s not impossible, hard work is the key. So I have to do my best and the rest will follow.
What is your message first to the fans of Lionel Abate Etoundi and then to the fans of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon?
First to my fans my message is that they should continue supporting me, because all what we do is for the fans and the family. I am very much aware of the expectations, but with their support I am convinced we can achieve big things.
For the fans of the Indomitable Lions.
To the fantastic family of the Indomitable Lions, because to me the fans and players are a big family, I want to say that they should continue to believe in the national team. Some of us have had the honour and privilege to be players of the national at any level, we know what it means to the fans, so my message is that they should continue to believe in and support the teams, so that together we can win more trophies for our great nation.
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