World Cup 1982 : The Lions Glorious Journey Begins

They left the competition unbeaten, scored one goal and conceded one.

Though the signals of Cameroon emerging soccer were already perceived in the late 70s at club level, the mantle of its successes can be said to begin in 1982, when they participated at the FIFA World Football Cup in Spain for the first time. With a team com- posed mostly of locally-based players, the Indomitable Lions after three matches changed the history of African soccer. Drawn in group A alongside Peru, Poland and eventual champion Italy, the Lions gave a good account of themselves. Against Peru on their first outing in June 15, 1982, the heavily bearded Lions of Cameroon dressed in their dreaded colours of green, red and yellow outfit scared their opponent from the blast of the referee’s whis- tle. At half time, the Peruvians who thought the Lions were “points dis- tributors” became more scared es- pecially with marvellous perfor- mance of goalkeeper Thomas Nkono. One of the Peruvians techni- cal staff member who happened to be a “witch doctor” asked that Thomas Nkono should be searched with the aid of a security dog. According to the official the extra-ordinary per- formance of the Indomitable Lions captain was not natural...but black magic. After the zero all tie against Peru, Poland was the next team on programme. The star-studded Polish team with players like Boniek, Lato met a well organised team under the auspices of French coach Jean Vin- cent. The defence line commanded by Njeya Rene, Onana Elie Eloundou, Mbom Ephraim and Kaham Michel was just too strong for them to penetrate. It was a must win encounter against Italy in order to move to the second round. Just like the first two matches, Jean Vincent threw in the same Lions. With their backs on the wall, the Lions raided the Italian camp se- verally, but the naivety and inexpe- rience of the attackers kept captain Dino Zoff net unperturbed throu- ghout the first segment. Upon resumption, the Italians opened scores, but the Lions retorted through Mbida Arantes a minute after. Back at home, though there was no television, people glued to their ra- dio sets hours before the start of the encounter. Those who could not af- ford radio sets either went to a neighbour’s house or bar. To listen to commentaries, one was obliged to buy a beer. The ears and eyes of most Cameroonian supporters in and out of the country were Radio Cameroon sports reporters, Zachary Nkwo and Abel Mbengue. This cream of reporters gave a clear picture of what happened minute-by- minute. Though with three points the Lions unbeaten record could not propel them to the knockout stage of the competition, they were given a hilarious welcome home at the Yaounde International Airport where hun- dreds of fans had gathered as early as 6 am to cheer their darling team. As Cameroonians savoured a public holiday, so too did the Lions receive an unprecedented reception at the Unity Palace .

Read also : Paix et développement: Le sport comme levier



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