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Cameroon still basking in AFCON victory that is inspiring young footballers

Cameroon still basking in AFCON victory that is inspiring young footballers

Cameroon

It’s been close to three weeks since Cameroon won Africa’s top football tournament – the African Cup of Nations, and celebrations continue as the trophy makes its way through the country.

Cameroon, which went into the competition as an underdog, ended their 15-year wait for a Nations Cup title when they beat Egypt 2-1 in Gabon.

On Thursday (February 23), jubilant crowds chanted and waved as the trophy made its way through the streets of Cameroon’s largest city, Douala.

Some supporters were disappointed that members of the Indomitable Lions did not participate in the parade. The players had to rejoin their respective football clubs in various parts of the world.

But fans still came in large numbers to catch a glimpse of the trophy.

“I am very happy that Cameroon won the African Cup of Nations. We have been waiting for a long time, we have been waiting for 15 years. We were dying to see the cup, God is great,” said one team supporter, Christophe Ebobisse.

“The Cameroonian people wanted to see the players and I was just explaining that those players went back to play for their teams in Europe. They could not lose time waiting to take the trophy around. But we are overjoyed to see the cup, to see gold, gold that the Lions brought back,” added another supporter, Elizabeth Tenkeu.

The trophy being in Douala was particularly significant for many residents, as it’s the home of striker Christian Bassogog, who was named this year’s AFCON player of the tournament, for his role in the Indomitable Lions fifth title win.

In New-Bell, the neighbourhood where Bassogog grew up, fans took it upon themselves to name a street after the player. Graffiti murals of his image can be seen on several buildings along this street.

“We have had our first biggest star (Bassogog) here on this street and as as the youth of this area, we took the initiative to paint this graffiti of the picture of number 13 (Bassogog kit number). He is in our hearts, in our thoughts and in our dreams,” said one fan, Ebenezer Epoh.

At only 21 years old Bassogog has become the pride of this soccer-mad nation.

Bassogog’s football career began with Douala team, Rainbow FC, before he joined the United States’ Wilmington Hammerheads in April 2015, then Denmark’s AaB Aalborg on trial a few months later.

Hot off his breakout performance at the Nations Cup, Bassogog has marked another career high after being signed by Chinese club Henan Jianye FC.

At his parents’ home in New Bell, the family are still taking in Bassogog’s success.

He only started playing for the national team last year for a World Cup qualifier against Zambia, before making it into the Africa Cup of Nations squad.

“Before he left for the Cup of Nations I told him; don’t be scared, don’t be intimidated by those other names. With your talent, I know that you can do wonders. I was so overjoyed that I was sick for three days, because of an abundance of joy,” said Christian’s father, Samuel Bassogog.

The team’s win has also inspired many young players hoping to follow in the footsteps of footballers like Bassogog.

At the New-Bell football training grounds where Bassogog honed his skills, young boys train with Bassogog’s former coach.

“This is where it all started for Christian Bassogog. But you never know, maybe this is where it will begin for me as well. I will work hard, I will improve and I will play football,” said young football player, Martial Payong.

“It brings a lot of pride to the youth of Cameroon to have a young player who used to train on this same grounds and who has become Cameroon and Africa’s new football idol,” added Bassogog’s former coach, Felix Fotso.

While the trophy has been touring Cameroon’s major cities, many in the country’s english speaking regions have called for a boycott of the tour.

Cameroon has been in political crisis in its Anglophone regions for the last three months following anti-government protests by lawyers and teachers, who went on strike over alleged bias favouring Francophones.

The government responded by ordering the country’s telecommunications providers to shut off the internet in those regions and deployed troops.

The tour was aimed at bolstering national unity, but simmering political tensions show no sing of abating.

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