By Angu Lesley
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon.
On the 28th of April 2019,the under 17 Lions of Cameroon defeated Guinea on post match penalties at the National stadium in Dar Es Salaam to win the country’s second Under 17 AFCON title.
Thomas Libiih’s side succeeded with just 18 players.
Steve Mvoue was named the tournament’s most valuable player, Daouda Amadou won the man of the match award award in the final while Seidou Ismaela finished as the team’s top scorer with two goals.
Goalkeeper Ekoi Manfred was one of the “wonders” of the tournament as he save a penalty against Angola in the semi final just like he did against Guinea in the semi final.
Cameroon defeated Guinea two nil in the opening group game at Chamazi thanks to goals from Steve Mvoue and Wamba Leonel.
Seidou Ismaela climbed off the bench to score twice to secure their second victory by two goals to one against Morocco at same venue.
The North Africans took the lead through Tawfik Bentayeb in the 17th minutes but the last 20 minutes of the game was most important for Cameroon as Seidou replaced Hamed Ben Ndongo Nassourou.
The Lions then recorded three consecutive virgin draws against Senegal,Angola and Guinea respectively. In the semi final and final, the players held their nerves and converted better than their opponents to win both games and the trophy.
THIS IS THE STORY:
Departure from Cameroon;
Coach Thomas Libiih and his team left Cameroon on the 26th of March 2019 via the Nsimalen international airport.
The squad of 23 boys arrived Kigali-Rwanda the same day, settled at their based
The eventful stay in Kigali:
The next day, the team practiced at the Stade Regional de Nyamirambo.
The practice session was the first on foreign soil since their return from Antalya Turkey and all 23 players were involved.The players appeared very motivated though with light injury worries for Seidou Ismaela and Alioum Moubarak.
While in Rwanda, the team played three test games recorded wins against Rwanda Under-17 and Kiyovu FC before loosing to their counterparts from Tanzania.
The game against Kiyovu provided a huge moral boaster for the team as wing “wizards” Seidou Ismaëla and Alioum Moubarak started for the first time in months and sparkled to the delight of their coach with Cameron hitting their opponent for four.
One week into their stay in Rwanda, the Lions visited the historic genocide memorial created in memory of the Tutsi people who were massacred in 1994.
This reporter believes the visit on Friday 5th April 2019, the timing, vis-a-vis events back home touched the players.
This increased the players desire to win though no member of the team ever mentioned it at the time.
The stars of Kigali:
Wamba Leonel,Steve Mvoue, Seidou Ismaëla, Alioum Moubarak, Yannick Noah and Ben Hamed Ndongo all sparkled in Rwanda scoring goals with ease but reserved their best for the future.
The team left Kigali on the night of April 7th 2019. They arrived Tanzania on the 8th of April, ahead of all the participants in the competition including the host nation.
Cameroon’s first training session in Tanzania was held on Monday 8th April 2019 at the Jakaya M Kikwete Youth Park in Dar Es Salaam.
The atmosphere in the training session was unprecedented as hundreds of Tanzanians came from their different corners of the city to watch the Lions.
The team sang different songs through the first 30 minutes of their training session before coaches Thomas Libiih,Owono Foe,Olivier Nankam and team manager Lucien Mettommo stepped in to assign different drills It was evident that the players were already in the mood for competition.
After two days at a FECAFOOT hired base in Dar Es Salaam, CAF took over the team on April 11. Business has started.
The competition proper began on April 17th.Hang on!! Before the competition started, things became more difficult for coach Thomas Libiih.
CAF suspends three Cameroonian players;
On the 14th April 2019, less than a week after Cameroon arrived Tanzania and three days before their first game, the Confederation of African Football handed the team’s MRI test results.
The results indicated that defender Camal Ryan Moumbagna,midfielder Arc-En-Ciel Mintongo Mpal and goalkeeper Aliou Soulemanou Hendji were ineligible for the competition.
Head coach Thomas Libiih and collaborators Olivier Nankam, Owono Foe and Lucien Mettomo had to employ their best personnel management skills to get the best out of a depleted squad. Cameroon were in an AFCON tournament of five matches in two weeks with just 18 players.
Somehow the Lions started well with a two mil win over Guinea that put them on the driving seat.The team continued with the same competitive edge and until they picked up a semi final ticket as they ended group stage as unbeaten and as group winners.
After two victories and a draw, Cameroon booked a semi final appointment with an impressive Angola side with whom they shared the same hotel in Dar Es Salaam.
The Partial panic in camp:
On the eve of the semi final game against Angola, first choice keeper Ekoi Manfred collided with Wamba Leonel in training and cause a scare in training in the presence of the president of the Cameroon football federation Seydou Mbombo Njoya and the minister of Sports and physical education professor Narcisse Kombi Mouelle.This situation pulled the attention of everyone.
An injury to Ekoi meant Cameroon will have only one goalkeeper in the remaining games of the competition.
Fortunately the medical team gave their all and the next day Ekoi was cleared to play with a heavily bandaged leg.
Despite losing red-carded captain captain Fabrice Ndzie Mezama just two minutes into the second segment, the boys of coach Libiih were resilient to force the match into a goalless draw, before prevailing on post match penalties.
The 5-3 victory on post match penalties with another save from Ekoi helped the Central African nation reach the final.
The final huddle;
Cameroon against Guiniea in the final was a remake of the countries first game in the tournament.
The lions came into the game with a psychological advantage having won two nil against the same opponents earlier in the competition.
This time around both sides couldn’t be separated with 90 minutes.
It took another penalty shoot session to produce a 5-4 victory over Guinea.
2)Ekoi Manfred (saved a penalty in the semi final and final)
4)Ndzie Fabrice (captain and only player to participate in two under 17 AFCONs)
6)Ngolna Patrice (played every minute of the competition and every minute of the world cup in Brazil )
7)Bere François (scored in the world cup in Brazil)
9)Ngatchou Ricky(played every minute of the competition and the world cup. Currently plays for AS Fortuna)
10)Mintongo Arc en Ciel
11)Amadou Daouda (Man of match in the final against Guinea)
12)Mvoue Steve (scored Cameroon’s opening goal in the competition against Guinea and won the MOTM award in the game. He was voted player of the tournament)
13) Ben Hamed Ndongo
14)Dibongue Longue Gaël
15)Onana Etoga Loïc.
17)Wamba Leonel (scored Cameroon’s second goal in the opener against Guinea)
21)Ismaila Seidou (scored twice in 19 minutes against Morocco, won man of the match in that game, was Cameroon’s lead scorer at the AFCON)
Coach :Thomas Libiih
Deputy Coach:Olivier Nankam
Deputy Coach: Owono Foe
Team Manager : Lucien Mettomo
The boys who left unnoticed returned home to a heros welcome on April 29th and were received by the president of the Republic on May 20th.
Unfortunately, the progress of these players hasn’t been admirable.
It is this reporter’s wish to see some, if not all of these players repeat this trick with another category of the national team.
Congratulations again to all those who were involved in this wonderful journey to glory.
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