Modeste Mbami: "The Olympics propelled me on the world stage''

Modeste Mbami est mort
Modeste Mbami: "The Olympics propelled me on the world stage''

Modeste Mbami died on Saturday, January 7, 2023 at the age of 40. The former Cameroonian midfielder of OM and PSG died of a heart attack. In 2021, he had given an interview to Sport News Africa, just before the 2020 Olympics. Here is the whole interview.

He was still only 17 years old on September 23, 2000. The day he sent Cameroon to the semi-finals of the Sydney Olympics. With a heavy shot from more than 20m (113th minute), Modeste Mbami made Ronaldinho's Brazil fold. Offering the victory to the Indomitable Lions (2-1), who then won the final against Spain. Almost 21 years later, the former PSG and OM player takes us into his memories through this interview conducted by phone for SNA.


SNA: In a few days, 12 Cameroonian athletes will participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, with the ambition to bring back a medal. An experience you had in 2000 in Sydney with the Indomitable Lions. What memories do you keep of these Games?

Modeste Mbami: They are unforgettable moments. I keep very pleasant memories of those Olympic Games in Sydney. I really spent intense moments with my teammates. At the beginning, we did not go to this competition with the ambition to bring back the gold medal. So every victory gave us unforgettable sensations. It was simply magical.

In the end, Cameroon won the gold medal after beating Spain in the final. Tell us about that famous day...

Modeste Mbami: It was the best day I spent in Sydney. That day had started the day before actually (laughs). No one had been able to sleep a wink. We talked all night long, until 4am. We were here talking about the game we were going to play. Honestly, everyone was relaxed. We understood that we were in the right conditions to win; because in reality, we knew we had nothing to lose. We were already happy to be there, we didn't imagine we would make it to the final. We told ourselves that we had to give it everything we had. I remember Pierre Wome's saving penalty that allowed us to win the game. It was just incredible.

What was your first thought after winning the medal?

I couldn't believe it. We were Olympic gold medalists, we Cameroonians. The team was mostly made up of young players from the Cameroonian leagues. We didn't really have the ideal group to hope for this Olympic gold medal. When we won, the first thing that came to my mind was the Cameroonian people and my family. I immediately thought of the joy we could give them. Because we know what soccer means to every Cameroonian.

What were the repercussions of your medal?

I think more about the recognition of my country. Then, it must be said that this medal contributed to give me a certain visibility on the world level. When I came back from the Olympic Games, I was young, I had a trainee contract. The club (CS Sedan) who saw in me a player of the future had some certainties. That's how I quickly signed a professional contract. It is thanks to Cameroon and this Olympic gold medal. The Olympic Games were really the beginning of everything. There was certainly work to do beforehand, but the Sydney 2000 Olympics helped propel me onto the world stage. Especially my golden goal against Brazil.

What happened to that medal today? What do you think of when you look at it?

My gold medal? It's there, nice and warm. We have achieved something. Today we are part of the history of the Olympics. There are many great players in the world who have won everything but this Olympic gold medal. So it is a great pride. This is what will go down in history. I must admit that it is with time that I realize the difficulties we went through and that we achieved something great.

What did you do with the equipment with which you played in the final of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games?

Modeste Mbami: First, there is an anecdote (laughs). The day of the final, we did not have all our equipment complete. We had to buy some equipment because of a problem with the sponsor. Some equipment had been flocked with pens, others with plaster. That's what we played this final with. I donated the equipment to my relatives and friends. And I kept the medal for myself.

Where does the memories of the Olympics fit in with your life and career?

Modeste Mbami: When I look back at my career, all the way to the top, I think this is the greatest achievement I have ever made. In my life as a sportsman, I don't think I have achieved anything as great. On the other hand, in my private life, the most important thing has always been to have children and to start a family.

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