The Sunday Mail
THEY have only been in Zimbabwe for 72 hours but that short stay has been long enough for the visiting Cameroon Under-20 soccer delegation to fall in love with the country.
Cameroon’s media officer Albert Njie Mbonde says they feel honoured to be in a country led “by an icon that is President Mugabe”.
“This country is super my friend, there might be a lot said about your President, but your President, Bob, he is a hero. Back home a lot of people talk about his bravery; they talk about the way he stands up for his people.
“You have nice infrastructure here. I have also seen that your people are truly independent and in control of their country, which is not the case in some parts of Africa,” enthuses Njie Mbonde.
“I have travelled to many countries in Africa but I have a feeling Zimbabwe is not what people out there think it is. You might not realise it you Zimbabweans, but many in other parts of Africa would want to be in your position.”
The Cameroon U20 side clash with Zimbabwe’s Young Warriors in an Africa Nations Cup U-20 second round first leg qualifier in Harare this afternoon.
Njie Mbonde says there was a lot of enthusiasm back in Cameroon where a new Football Federation (Fecafoot) president Tombi A Roko Sidiki was elected last September.
The 52-year-old Sidiki has drafted an 11-point plan that puts emphasis on youth football development in the wake of Cameroon’s slump in international football in recent years.
Cameroon host Afcon 2019 and Njie Mbonde says between now and then, his country’s focus will be on the youth teams.
“There is so much enthusiasm back home; we have a new Football Federation, we are hosting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and everyone is talking about a revival. The senior team hasn’t been doing quite well in recent years and we are rebuilding, it starts with this Under-20s,” says Njie Mbonde.
The Cameroonians were a given a bye in the first round of the qualifiers but kept themselves active with three international friendlies against Burkina Faso, Ghana and Morocco.
They have three European-based players in their squad: Mikal Franck Landry, Gnapele Christ and Bodiong Andiolo who play for youth teams at Anderlecht (Belgium), Olympique Marseille (France) and Herve (Cyprus).
Their new U-20 coach Cyprian Ashu Besong was attached to English champions Leicester’s U-21 side last year.