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Facing Cameroons Truth

Anne Mireille Nzouankeu/Twenty Ten

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Former Cameroonian international goalkeeper, Joseph Antoine Bell, interviewed.

Associated Features: Cameroon Fall from Glory(Text Feature) Où est le Cameroun(French Translation of Cameroon Fall from Glory)

Anne Mireille Nzouankeu: How do you explain the exit of the Indomitable Lions before the end of the first round?

Joseph Antoine Bell: The Cameroonian national team has lost its first two games and were still to play the leader of the group. In such conditions, the team ranks last and thus will not qualify for the next round.

AMN: How do you explain that the Indomitable Lions are at the bottom of their group, as we have great memories of the team, especially from the 1990 World Cup?

JAB:Everyone remembers 1990. Yet 1990 is only one event. Why are people not talking about the other World Cups? What happened in 1994, 1998, 2002 and now 2010? We had a good performance once: one successful appearance. All the others ended up in failures that we have become complacent, thus preventing us from facing the truth.

AMN: What is that truth?

JAB: The truth is that we have been to six World Cups and five times we were knocked out in the first round. Yet, the only performance we always put forward is that of 1990, as if it were our norm. The truth is that we have never won a game at a World Cup other than in 1990. The exception is the win against Saudi Arabia in 2002, by the smallest of margins. These are the statistics of the Cameroonian team. Had we faced this truth early enough, we would have probably taken the necessary steps rather than remaining on that same path, which led us where we are today.

AMN: Which steps are you referring to? Do you think there might be issues with discipline, cohesion or player selection?

JAB: Discipline and cohesion are minor issues; we should rather speak of coherence. Cohesion applies to the team, but coherence is primarily about ideas. A team is not just the players on the pitch: it is a general management policy. You need to have a defined purpose and clear goals...etc. After answering those questions, your actions become more coherent with the ideas that guide the policy you want to implement. When you are complaisant, you end up where we are. This means that at a certain point in time, sport catches up with you and it is remorseless. We have never been happy with our performance at a World Cup since 1990. And whenever we are not happy, we blame others. Anyway, we remain wrapped up in the success of 1990.

AMN: Did you anticipate The Lions' bad performance?

JAB: There were signs pointing to a mediocre performance at the 2010 World Cup. We agonisingly qualified from a group comprising of Togo, Gabon and Morocco. We battled Togo, Gabon and Morocco to claim the credit a miracle. No one has had the courage to say that qualifying from such a group was far from a miracle, and if it were one, then a dismal failure was definitely around the corner at the World Cup, where there would be no Togo or Gabon.

If you lower the bar to boast about a high jump, do not be shocked when you fail to clear any bar during a world contest. We have lowered our expectations, therefore we are content with the false challenges that we set ourselves. When the Cameroonian team, which stands to be an African giant and one of the continent's hopes to win the World Cup, is happy to qualify painstakingly from a group with Gabon and Togo; when such a team goes to the 2010 African Cup of Nations and exits at the quarter-finals stage, losing in the process to Gabon and confirming they are at the same level; when, after all that, we do not realise what is happening, we should not be boggled by the failure to win a game at the World Cup.

AMN: Did problems within the team recently reported by the media also contribute to this debacle?

JAB: Internal problems fall under the coherence I alluded to earlier. If you manage your team with complacency or incompetence, internal squabbles are inevitable.

Internal squabbles stem from a lack of rigour. Management is there to ensure that internal squabbles do not arise. There are no internal squabbles in winning teams; there are no internal squabbles in competent teams, there are no internal squabbles with champions. Internal problems are for those who won't make it through the first round. This means that we definitely have a management problem. There are no internal squabbles when management is rigorous and competent.

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