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Monday, August 17, 2009

We were once Indomitable…

We were once Indomitable…

( my narrative of Cameroon v. Egypt) October 2005

Before leaving Yaoundé I shot a last long glance at the floodlights of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium, buried in the city’s skyline. Yesterday was an emotionally charged day. It was October 8, and we had arrived the stadium like conquistadors. The media bus reeked with optimism and enthuse. Even as journalists we could not help but feel confident about what seemed a certain victory.
The indomitable Lions of Cameroon were simply put ‘going to devour a troop of timid pharaohs’. The qualifying ticket for Germany 2006 was ours for the taking.
One hour before the game we tucked snugly in-between the steaming fans. Our job as sports commentators would be easy and jolly. As expected Cameroon attacked. Egypt waited. The fans screamed. Twenty minutes into the game we were one goal up, and unsuspectingly waiting for the flourish. I was trying to be unemotional and critical. It was my first major job as a radio sports host. It was a decisive game, the last qualifying game for the World cup 2006 and Cameroon until now had its own future in its hands.
A victory would do it. The game was being played on home ground- Mfandena.
Cameroon was looking to confirm its strong previous outing. An emphatic win on the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan.
At half time I was already worrying about the post-match interviews of our world class striker Samuel Eto’o. Eto’o was imperial, brightening the game with his skill. “Le but, Le but!” the fans chanted.
Thirty minutes into the second half, the quick-paced Egyptians, caught Cameroon’s central defense flat-footed.
SILENCE! Goal or offside?
The Malian referee turned towards the midfield. The over 40.000 local fans knew that sign too well. The Pharaohs who had not looked any dangerous till then, had just leveled the score. With barely 10 minutes of playtime left, Cameroon started to see Germany 2006 flutter away. Nightmare. The fans had promised to be Spartans, to support their side to the last. But they were too stunned to move.
“Cote d’Ivoire is 3 goals up against Sudan?” someone muttered in the crowd.
Like drowning men, the lions pressed on, bringing too much pressure to bear on the Egyptians. Pius Ndiefi, Kalla Raymond and Salomon t all wasted scoring opportunities.
Five extra minutes, the fourth referee displayed.
Olembe attempted another desperate rush into the Egyptian penalty box. The whistle, then the gesture. ‘Penalty?’ ‘Yes! Penalty!’ the stadium screamed out as one man, but at an inhuman decibel. People fell into each other’s arms as if they had known themselves for years. ‘Relief’ was written on every face.
An experienced and confident Wome Nlend, left-winger of the squad moved up and picked up the ball. He just kept it. While the realization that Cameroon was again master of its destiny returned. In the emotion of the moment, Olembe moved out of the stadium. As he held his head in his arms, it was clear he was just incredulous, not injured. Almost crying. Wome placed the ball at the penalty spot, as Egyptians and Cameroonians watched on. He stepped back a few steps. The whistle went, and he took the shot. The ball struck the base of the right goalpost and flew out. None of the standing fans could seem to settle back into their seats. The last seconds of extra time ticked away. The Lions seemed very much tamed, not subdued by the opponent, but by its very own self.
The Malian referee took his whistle to his lips and sounded the final whistle. Hearts sunk. Reality began to set in. The players’ feet wobbled as some sank unto the green turf. Others remained kneeling, as if taking a celestial punishment from above. Cameroon 1-1 Egypt. After 15 years Cameroon was out of a FIFA World Cup rendezvous.


  1. that is a delight to read, without the pressures of the need to qualify for the world cup which loomed large at the time... I love the title... it captures the truth about our spirit, the african spirit, the cameroonian spirit... may we recapture that indomitable spirit which once inhabited us again, from where ever we have let it wander to.

  2. Not only does it bring back memories of a missed opportunity to prove we still got what it takes to compete with the best in the world, but it also paints a vivid picture of make belief, making me believe I was indeed present at the stadium on match day. I can almost envisage myself, sat among the exhuberant, expectant and ever-noisy fans chanting & shouting, cheering on the 'indomitable lions' on. Good piece from a very talented individual.