The much awaited Africa Cup of Nations [AFCON] football competition is going down in a few hours and the land of the Indomitable Lions is ready.
All the fears have been eased as both the Confederation African Football [CAF] and the government of Cameroon have given their best to ensure that the tournament is finally a reality on Cameroonian soil.
Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute and the Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Professor Narcisse MOUELLE KOMBI have not left any stone unturned. Yes the nation is ready infrastructure wise and logistically, after all the last CAF inspection visits and reports and health worries brought by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Media men and women and other stakeholders are sharpening up and fine-tuning for the big event so too are the Indomitable Lions under the tutelage of the new President of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) Samuel Eto’o.
Coach Antonio Conceiçao has the daunting task of leading Cameroon into “their” competition, with the weight of expectations simply back breaking.
He is the chosen one to take the team and the aspirations of the Cameroon people into a competition Cameroon is yet to win on home soil despite haven won the trophy five times.
In their previous participations, on home soil 50 years ago, the Indomitable Lions got close but as close as they were so too was their less illustrious neighbor, Congo Brazzaville who knocked them out at the semifinals before going on to claim their one and only triumph in the 64-year tournament.
Cameroon will be competing against the best on the continent with the ultimate goal of finally emerging victorious in a major tournament on home soil. The men in 1972 fell short at the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations and the women in 2016 lost to their eternal rivals Nigeria in the finals of the African Women’s Cup of Nations. The home based Indomitable Lions ended at the semifinals and finished fourth in the last African Nations Championship [CHAN].
Could the 2021 AFCON be fourth time lucky for Cameroon?
The desired answer to that question is yes, but have we pushed our luck to succeed?
Here too we could say yes especially with the arrival of Samuel Eto’o at the helm of the federation.
The former Officials of Fecafoot and the National Professional Football League opted for a display of an unpleasant dance of egos, unpleasant and disgusting to the audience but above all compromising the careers and futures of a talented generation of players who were just asking to be given a chance to express themselves. However that looks to be far cry now especially as non of the players called up by coach Conceiçao to defend the colors of Cameroon play their football in the country's domestic championship.
10 of the 14 former champions are here (Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tunisia). Zambia, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville and South Africa are the four previous winners missing from the call.
Whatever happens in the one month, Africa is in Cameroon for a football party whether Cameroon wins it or not.
Twenty four teams have been divided into six pools will be in the competition that will take place in the cities of Limbe-Buea, Douala and Yaoundé, Garoua and Bafoussam.
Group A is made up of hosts Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia.
Group B is comprised of 2019 runners-up Senegal, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Guinea.
While Group C will see 1976 winners Morocco, four times winners Ghana, debutants Comoros and Gabon to fight for places to the knockout stages.
Group D is one of the most prestigious in the tournament with eleven AFCON winning medals between the four teams. Seven time record winners Egypt, three time winners Nigeria, 1970 champions Sudan and minnows Guineas-Bissau complete the Garoua based Group.
In Group E, defending champions Algeria, 1992 and 2015 winners Côte d’Ivoire will seek to show their supremacy over Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone.
In Limbe, 2004 winners Tunisia, 1972 runners-up when Cameroon hosted the tournament 50 years ago, Mali, new comers Gambia and the Chinguetti Lions of Mauritania will fight for the top spots in Group F.
It promises to be fireworks and Cameroonians are hoping to see the Lions roar for the first time in this competition on home soil, though it is a big ask given the pedigree some of the other teams. Let’s put our trust and believe in our Indomitable Lions who are expected to fight like gladiators. After all their is a popular Cameroon slogan that says “Impossible n’est pas Camerounais”.