President Paul Biya and wife, Chantal received all 23 players of the winning Gabon campaign and their trainers and support staff at State House yesterday for deserved national praises.
All the national manifestations of support and praise and in their various forms since the national football team valiantly won the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Libreville, Gabon last Sunday came to the apotheosis with the Cameroonian presidential couple receiving the team, on behalf of the entire Cameroonian people at State House yesterday. Since Sunday, the day of the victory, the national territory has been literally thrown into feasting with virtually no locality left out.
Even in the two Anglophone regions of the North-West and South-West, an ongoing strike was set aside, giving room for wild-cat scenes observed in the main urban agglomerations of this part of the country such as Limbe, Buea, Kumba, Bamenda, Kumbo and the like, obviously dispelling cynical suggestions that citizens of this part of the country were not sufficiently patriotic.
In fact, when the President of the Republic took the floor yesterday to express his thanks to the squad for doing Cameroon good, he did not hesitate to point to the fact that all regions of the country were enveloped in that feeling of joy as crowds, in every corners came out massively to express their joy and he significantly mentioned all the chief towns of these regions. The event-proper started at midday with the arrival of the presidential couple into the banquet hall of State House, where the heads of the principal state organs were already present, along with the Indomitable Lions squad and their trainers and other managers who had arrived minutes earlier to a thunderous applause.
The appearance in the hall of goal keeper Fabrice Ondoa and attacker Vincent Aboubakar received a special ovation, for understandable reasons. Ondoa is largely considered to have helped Cameroon get into the knock-out stages of the competition with his wonderful show in the Cameroon-Gabon match while Aboubakar’s winning goal in the dying minutes of the Egypt-Cameroon match is considered crucial in Cameroon’s final victory. On arrival in the banquet hall, the president and the First Lady were led to a raised platform from where they could easily see the entire team, placed some ten meters in front of them. Team Captain Benjamin Moukandjo came forward with the Cup which he presented to the Head of State amidst deafening applause. President Biya handed it to his wife who placed one or two kisses on the trophy before returning it to her husband who raised it now to the full view of all those present in the hall. In quick succession, all the players and the technical staff came up to receive the personal congratulations of the presidential couple.
So far, it was simply some kind of mumbling between the president and the players; but now time had come for a formal commendation. The President’s first words virtually summarized all what Cameroonians have been doing on the streets ever since the team returned: “I am proud of you… We are all proud of you”, the President announced before acknowledging that the team had done far more than had been expected of it, taking the example from the Lionesses who had placed the level very high by playing the final of the female AFCON. The President said the victory was as a result of unity, solidarity, courage, determination, generosity and the desire to work together and, above all, the desire to die for the fatherland. By doing this, the President said their message is clear. “Whether you call yourself Moukandjo, Ondoa, Ngadeu, Aboubakar, Fai, Bassogog or Ndip Tambe, you are first of all and before all else Cameroonians”, the President told the players. For this great deed, the President of the Republic instantly decorated all the 23 players and the technical staff with the medal of Knight of the Cameroon National Order of Valour. Alioum Boukar, goalkeepers trainer of the squad, and Pierre Nguidjol, head of administration received the Commander of the national Order of Valour medal.