Exclusive: Cameroon 1990 World Cup heroes receive 30-year-old gift

Players of Cameroon National football team at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy have received the keys to the houses promised by the Head of State Paul Biya in a ceremony at the Yaoundé Multi-Purpose Sports Complex.

The recognition is a reward for their exploits during the global showpiece when they became the first African Nation to reach the quarter-finals.

The run-in during that tournament included three wins and two defeats against the Soviet Union and England in the quarterfinal – while the major highlight was the Indomitable Lions edging defending champions Argentina in the tournament opener at San Siro with François Omam- Biyik netting the only goal from a superb header.

Three members of that historic 22-man squad are dead: Benjamin Massing, Louis-Paul Mfede and recently emblematic captain Stephen Eta Tataw and their families were entitled to receive the keys after presenting backup documents.

Other iconic players like Roger Milla, Joseph Antoine Bell, Thomas Libih, Ndip Akem, Bertin Ebwelle, and Jules Denis Onana graced the event with their presence.

Meanwhile, Thomas N’kono, Jacque Songo’o, Emmanuel Kunde, Roger Feutmba, Jean-Claude Pagal, Cyrille Makanaky, and Emile Mbouh were absent from the ceremony.

The Minister of Housing of Urban Development Celestine Keutcha Courtes disclosed that seven of the beneficiaries have chosen their homes in Douala while the remaining fifteen have opted for the Yaoundé site at Olembe.

These structures will be added to accompanying facilities for the comfort of the veteran players who propelled the Central African Nation to the acme of World football.

Former Indomitable Lions goalkeeper, Joseph Antoine Bell told African Football HQ the gift can’t be qualified as a dream come true.

“It is exactly the wrong way to say it. It is not a dream come true because we were not dreaming for thirty years. For myself, I was not dreaming for thirty years. It was something that was said 30 years ago then for a week or two you will be waiting for it to materialize and then you think they never said it,” the former shot-stopper revealed.

Although there have been mixed feelings concerning the houses offered in term of quality, Ndip Akem member of the legendary squad has appreciated the move and insisted the opinions of others doesn’t change his stance.

“The head of state decided to give us the house after 30-years. Whether others are satisfied or not, I am satisfied because it is a house. I am really happy and I want to thank the President for that,” Ndip enthused.

Can Italia 1990 success Pave a new path for the Lions?

Cameroon Minister of Sport and Physical Education Prof Narcisse Mouelle Kombi believes the Lions 1990 World Cup triumph can inspire the current crop of players to replicate the achievement as the country gears up to stage two continental competitions; The African Nations Cup (AFCON) in 2022 and the African Nations Championship (CHAN) next year.

“We wish that a new generation both present and future inspire themselves from your examples to excel at a continental and global stage,” Kombi said at the recent unveiling.

The five-time African champions have not made remarkable strides at the FIFA World Cup since they participated in 1990, although there’s been much to write home about at the African Cup of Nations with the Lions being the second most successful nation in Africa.

To repeat similar achievements at the CHAN and AFCON, players who must be disciplined and hardworking, suggests Ndip.

“A lot of this young player for instance, after training they go to night clubs or the bars, we did not have time to go to night clubs or bars,” the 53-year-old explained.

“I can tell you it’s been 18 years I have not touched alcohol nor went to night clubs. Can you imagine me staying for 18 years without going to clubs or drinking beer?

“[These] days our young stars immediately they leave the field to the night clubs or bars drinking beer which abstains them from sleep and to prepare your self for tomorrow which is a very difficult task.

“They need to be self-disciplined and be respectful [to the craft].