Starting on a Down Note

It is about 12:30 am Tuesday here in South Africa, and I just got back to the hotel from a long day in Bloemfontein.

It takes about four hours to get from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein, so we left early — around seven in the morning — because we wanted to beat the traffic leaving. We also didn’t want to miss the pre-game celebrations.


This is what it means to support Cameroon.

Sure enough, the « Pays » — as we call a group of Cameroonian outside the country — showed up. The Green Red and Yellow was everywhere, from traditional outfits to different homemade costumes. The Lions were represented everywhere. What was surprising for me was the support we got from South Africans. From adults to high school kids, they all came to the stadium wearing Cameroonian colors. I thought that was awesome!

TOUGH START FOR THE LIONS
The game itself was terrible. We did not play well at all. Cameroon only had one shot at the goal the whole first half, which explains why were down 1-0 after the first 45 minutes. The second half started with about the same pace the first half did. It wasn’t until the 80th minute of the game that we saw more action from the Lions, trying to tie it up, but by then, it was too late.

We ended up losing, 1-0. It was a very disappointing loss for us, knowing that this was a game that we should have won, especially given that we are playing better teams in Denmark and the Netherlands, respectively.

Talking to other people from Cameroon outside the stadium on my way home, everyone was disappointed. And like good Cameroonians, they all had something to say or argue about why we lost the game. They say there are 20 million coaches in Cameroon because each and every person has an opinion, strategy, lineup, or something to say about the national team. LOL…

For once, though, nearly everyone agreed, saying that the coaching decisions — especially the lineup — were the reason we lost the game. Looking at what happened, it is hard to disagree. Coach Paul Le Guen decided to sit Alexandre Song, the midfielder who plays for Arsenal. He started Samuel Eto’o on the right wing instead of center striker, which is his normal position. And he started three very young players, all who were playing their first World Cup, leaving players like Achile Emana and Geremi on the bench.

All these changes in the lineup, along with the loss, put a lot of doubts in Cameroonian heads as they wait for the most important game of the tournament — against Denmark on the 19th.

As for me, I’m just soaking it all in like a sponge. Tomorrow, I’ll be hanging out at the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, where the ESPN studios are located. ‘Til then, goodnight everyone from Johannesburg!