By Basil K Mbuye
Former Indomitable Lions Winfried Schafer has lamented the number of strikes he witnessed during his time at the helm of the team, he told Goal/SPOX in an interview.
“I never experienced as many strikes as I did in Cameroon,” the 2002 African Cup of Nations winning coach lamented.
Winfried Schafer who managed the Indomitable Lions from 2001 to 2004, pointed out some of the rows the squad while sharing his experiences during his time with the Lions.
Going by the German tactician these rows are the reason for the country’s poor performance at the 2002 FIFA World Cup which many before the tournament has tipped Cameroon as a favourite.
Hear him: “It was a very tumultuous time. I remember that we flew to the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan five days late because the Secretary of Sports did not want to pay the players their bonuses they had earned with the qualification for the tournament.
“It was a joke, and the Germans benefited the most because they came out top of our group. We did so well before the tournament, but these influences from outside are a real obstacle in countries like these,” Schafer explained.
With a crop of talented players all on their prime, Cameroon failed to cross the group stage after recording 4 points in three games. They could only manage to be ranked third in Group E behind group leaders Germany and second place Republic of Ireland with 7 and 5 points respectively.
Schafer also lamented the incident that saw the player boycotting the friendly against Germany in November 2004, just a couple of hours before the game. He pointed out that after so much intervention and efforts convincing the players, they could only manage to change their decision an hour to the game. As a result of this, they prepared themselves for the game on the bus ride to the stadium.
“At 5 PM, three and a half hours before kickoff, there was the team meeting at the hotel. The players entered the room and said: ‘Coach we won’t play.’ I thought it was a bad joke, but they had not been paid again. ‘We will have a nice evening’, they said and headed back to their rooms.
“I contacted the German Football Association to reach the President of Cameroon’s FA because they had dinner. But he was not able to help me, because the Secretary of Sports was somewhere in Cameroon and did not answer his phone. In the end, a guy from the main sponsor Puma assured us that players will bet their money.
“It would have been a disgrace if I had not made those calls that night. In the end, the players got dressed for the match in the team bus. Crazy.”
The Indomitable Lions are noted for bonus rows which usually occur before and during the competition. The team on many occasions has arrived late for international competitions and in some situations, they threatened to boycott games.
Winfried Schafer was appointed Indomitable Lions coach on November 2001. During this period he won the 2002 AFCON and also guided the Cameroonian side that ended as runner-up in the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France.