The Burundi national team has been in Garoua since Friday September 8, after two days in Douala. Etienne Ndayiragije's men are confident ahead of their clash with the Indomitable Lions. This fourth and final match in Group C of the qualifiers is decisive for both teams.
Everywhere you go in Burundi, in offices, buses or bistros, people are talking about the September 12 match between Cameroon and Burundi in Garoua.Burundi, a small East African country, is not the favorite for this match against the Central African giant, but many Burundians, players and especially Swallows fans, are confident.
"We're not afraid of the Cameroonians, even though this country is undeniably one of the great soccer nations. We'll be playing eleven against eleven, and they have two legs like us. The fact that Cameroon haven't qualified until the last day shows that their supremacy is no longer the same on the African continent. I left for Garoua because I have confidence in my team. I hope to return to my country with a qualification for the next AFCON," says Asman Nuhu, a fervent Swallows fan.
But not everyone in Burundi thinks like Asman. There are Burundians who say it's impossible to eliminate Cameroon."I love my country, but at a certain point you have to be realistic.Cameroon are very strong. I think even CAF would like to see Cameroon at the CAN more than Burundi. In matches like this, referees often side with teams with a good background rather than unknown countries like Burundi," says Nkurunziza Jean-Paul, despite his support for Les Hirondelles.
On the subject of refereeing, a Burundian international referee who requested anonymity is reassuring. He told Sport News Africa that the new head of African refereeing, Doué Noumandiez Désiré, does not tolerate refereeing errors and that all referees have been warned.
Cameroon are overwhelming favourites
In Cameroon, on the other hand, the newspapers keep harping on about this crucial match for both countries. For most Cameroonians, it's a battle between David and Goliath. They're sure to win by a landslide. The Indomitable Lions rarely miss a major soccer event. In front of their home fans at the Stade Omnisport Roumdé Adja in Garoua, Cameroon are overwhelming favourites. Missing out on qualification against Burundi would be a major setback for Rigobert Song and his men.
Of the twenty-three Burundian players who have gone to Cameroon, only one, Ndayishimiye Youssouf from Nice, can claim a starting place in the Cameroon squad. This just goes to show how much stronger Cameroon is than Burundi.
On paper, there's no match between the two teams."On the pitch, surprises are possible.Burundi have a psychological advantage over Cameroon and that can work in our favor. We have confidence in our players and I'm allowing myself to dream. Qualification is possible, I tell you," says Burundian sports journalist Patrick Sota. Rigobert Song versus Etienne Ndayiragije
There's a huge difference between the two coaches, as player and trainer. Rigobert was a captain and leader of Cameroon and played at the highest level, unlike Etienne Ndayiragije, who played almost his entire career in Burundi. Rigobert Song qualified his country for the World Cup in Qatar, whereas Ndayiragije's only major competition was the CHAN with the Tanzanian national team.
These are all factors in Cameroon's favor. But despite their outsider status, Burundi are aiming to create a stir and qualify for the AFCON for the second time."We're ready for the fight.My players are in good shape and are just waiting for match day.The aim is to qualify, and that's all there is to it," says Etienne Ndayiragije.