AFCON 2002 : Indomitable Lions Roar Again

Apart from winning the trophy, they also emerged the best defence after conceding no goal.

When the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon grabbed the African Cup of Nations trophy in the year 2000 after beating Nigeria on home ground, many could not predict with exactitude that the Lions would make the nation smile again twenty-four months after. Thus, after three matches at the group stage during which the Lions scored nine points, they beat Egypt at the quarter-finals before humbling host country Mali 3-0 in an encounter that many sports analysts described as “a match of nerves” due to the unfortunate incident that occurred a few minutes to the kick-off between goalkeeper trainer, Thomas Nkono and Malian riot police. After sending the entire Malian nation to bed as early as 6 pm with goals carrying the signatures of Olembe Olembe and Marc Vivian Foe, came the palpitating final encounter against star studded Teranga Lions of Senegal. Playing at Stade de 26 mars Bamako, the two teams after catalogues of misses separated on penalties with Cameroon retaining the African Nations Cup trophy, as they did in Nigeria, at the end of a gruelling two-hour contest in which they largely dominated. At the end of the tournament, the Lions did not only emerge with the best attack, defence and highest goal scorer (Patrick Mboma), but also entered the hall of fame as they joined Ghana and Egypt as four-time winners and become the first side to retain the cup since Ghana in 1965.

As the Indomitable Lions made strides on the field of play, the debate on their sleeveless jerseys took centre stage. However, the jersey debate notwithstanding the well campact Cameroonian team sent their fans at the stadium into jubilation to the extent that Samuel Eto’o, danced around with his pant after offering his jersey and short to supporters. In recognition of the great job the Lions did and in order to keep the euphoric steam on, President Paul Biya dispatched a special plane to fly the Indomitable Lions back to their den. On that faithful day (11th February), the entire Cameroon nation was at a standstill as all projectors and satellite dishes were focused towards the Nsimalen International Airport. At the tarmac of the airport, special security measures were put in place to contain the exciting crowd. The roadsides from the airport to the Mont Febe Hotel and then the Unity Palace, thousands of fans turned out en masse to cheer their darling team. The presence of the 2002 African Champions at the 20th May Boulevard for the 11th February march past, the reception at the Unity Palace and a tour of the different streets in the nation’s capital Yaounde added more colour to a well deserved feast.



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