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Que Sonnt-ils Dévenus? (JPK)

What have they become? (English below)

Associated feature: The Legends, Ghana (Photo feature), Le Bombardier (Photo feature), All Whites (Photo feature), Qui sont-ils devenus?Congo (Audio feature), Que sont-ils devenus? Cameroon (Audio feature), Death of a Legend (Photo feature)

Jean Pierre Kepseu/Twenty Ten

Lieu: Quartier Oyom - Abang Yaoundé, province du Centre , Cameroun

Les jeunes footballeurs africains et camerounais en particulier ont chacun une idole celui sur qui sont focalisés leurs rêves. On les appelle en général « anciens gloires » qui ne jouaient que par amour pour leur patrie. Ils ont brillé et ont fait rayonner le football à l’échelle national et international à l’époque où l’argent ne circulait pas beaucoup dans cette discipline contrairement au football moderne.

On se souvient de l’épopée des Lions Indomptables à la phase finale de la Coupe du Monde de 1982 en Espagne; pour sa première participation le Cameroun termina la compétition sans défaite. Puis son premier trophée de la CAN(Coupe d’Afrique des Nations) de 1984 en Côte d’Ivoire avec des joueurs tels que Roger Milla, Onana Eloundou, Tokoto Jean pierre , Michel Kaham Ahoudou Ibrahim , Thomas Nkono, Abéga Théophile, Omam Biyik etc.. Et surtout le Mondiale 90 en Italie où il atteint les quarts de finale, prouesse qui permet à l’Afrique d’obtenir désormais cinq places pour cette compétition.

La plupart de ces anciens Lions Indomptables vivent dans une misère poignante et d’autres sont décédés dans la souffrance et l’anonymat sans aucune reconnaissance.
Que sont-ils donc devenus aujourd’hui après leur carrière ?

Onana Eloundou Elie alias « Panka » fait partie de ceux –là et est un exemple. Aujourd’hui âgé de 60 ans polygames divorcés et père d’une dizaine d’enfants. Il fut le libéro et maitre de la défense des Lions Indomptables des années 80. Il fait partie des joueurs qui se sont donnés corps et âme pour faire rayonner le football camerounais au niveau mondial. ll arrête de jouer à cause d’une terrible maladie dont il a été victime. Retraité depuis plusieurs années après avoir exercé comme gardien de prison il vit isolé dans la pauvreté en son domicile du quartier Oyom-Abang une ban-lieu de Yaoundé.

Location: Oyom district - Abang Yaoundé, Centre province, Cameroon

Location: Oyom district - Abang Yaoundé, Cameroon

Onana Eloundou, commonly known as ‘Panka’, played defence for the Indomitable Lions in the 80s. He is one of many who gave their lives to put Cameroonian football on the map, only to be forgotten by soccer associations and the Department of Sport later in life.

The Indomitable Lions will forever be remembered for their performance during the 1982 World Cup in Spain and the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Or for winning their first Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 1984 in the Ivory Coast, when players such as Roger Milla, Onana Eloundou, Tokoto Jean pierre, Michel Kaham Ahoudou Ibrahim, Thomas Nkono, Abéga Théophile and Omam Biyik made the headlines.

For former players like Eloundou, the excitement that accompanied their rise to fame at the beginning of their football careers died down when they reached retirement, and many slipped off the public radar altogether. Some fell prey to illness and others worked menial jobs to pay their bills.

Eloundou found a job as a prison warden in the Central Prison in Yaoundé. Towards the end of his time there he began to suffer from asthma and had to quit. Unable to access his pension, he began borrowing money to pay his medical bills. Although he is now receiving a monthly pension, his debt from that period has made it impossible for him to pursue any of the projects he is interested in. His frustration with the football federation for their lack of support saddens the former star, who gave the best part of his life to the game.

Despite having fathered several children, none of them are in a position financially to come to his aid. In his desperation, Panka, like any other ex-football legends, has turned to alcohol and lives alone in the Oyom-Abang district, in the suburbs of Yaoundé.

The fact that the neither FECAFOOT (Cameroon football federation), nor the Department of Sport are legally obliged to support former footballers, means that men like Eloundou have no way to throw off the shackles of poverty and reverse the vicious cycle of alcoholism.

The retired soccer star hopes that soon there will be a law brought in to ensure that men who invest so significantly in the success of Cameroon’s football team are not abandoned later in life.

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