Baby Lions Of Cameroon Are Champions!
The Boys of Head Coach, Thomas Libiih lifted the trophy on Sunday , April 28th after beating their Guinean counterparts, 5-3 on penalties in Tanzania.
After a scintillating 90 minutes plus four of football extravaganza in Tanzania, the Baby Lions of Cameroon and their Guinean counterparts were held at a virgin tie. It was during the post match penalty shootout that Cameroon succeeded to break the deadlock. The beautiful parade that pushed back Mohamed Youssouf's penalty kick by wonderboy, Manfred Ekoi was a great relief for the entire team and supporters. When Alioum Moubarak stepped forward and converted Cameroon’s last penalty kick, the players, staff and supporters back at home were let loose and celebrations begun.
It should be noted that the Baby Lions of Cameroon put up an impressive show in Tanzania this year. In their tournament opener, they beat Guinea by two goals to nothing. Up next was Morocco. They too were beaten by two goals to one. The Baby Lions then got a 0-0 tie in their last encounter against Senegal, qualifying for the semi finals on top of Group B. That qualification into the semi finals also meant qualification for the Baby Lions to participate in the upcoming World Cup of their category that will take place in the month of November this year in Brazil.
In the semi finals, the Baby Lions faced Angola. After regular playing time, the two sides had a virgin tie. They then proceeded to penalty kicks. Cameroon carried the day after Manfred Ekoi pushed back the third Angolan kick. Qualification into the final was thus sealed with a 4-3 win over Angola. It was also during this stage that Guinea succeeded to eliminate Nigeria from the competition after beating them 9- 8 in post match penalties.
Guinea, a Hard Knot to Crack.
If someone had imagined an easy ride for Cameroon in the final against Guinea, owing to the Baby Lions' triumph over the latter in the Group stages, then such a one had to rethink on Sunday. After eliminating Nigeria from the tournament in the semi finals, Guinea grew in confidence. Besides, they were nourished by their determination to take revenge on the Baby Lions for disgracing them with a two nill win in their first encounter of the competition. Therefore, they came ready to frustrate the Baby Lions in the final and possibly grab their first continental trophy in that category.
That may explain why they came so close in opening scores several times in the final. Cameroon had their fair chances too but failed to concretize. Cameroon’s Captain of the day, Steve Mvoe also came so close but failed to make it count. Finally, only penalties helped to separate the youngsters who held millions of televiewers spellbound and glued to their TV sets until the last kick of the competition that saw Cameroon receiving her second coronation in the category after sixteen years.
Apart from the overall win, the Baby Lions won the admiration of more than one as individual players received awards. Douda Amadou won the Man of the match award of the day. Cameroon’s Captain of the day, Steve Mvoe was elected the Best Player of the Tournament.
As the Boys of Head Coach, Thomas Libiih return to the Nation's political capital, Yaounde this Monday in grand style, it is hoped that these set of players will continue to work hard to do the Nation proud as they travel to Brazil for the U-17 World Cup in November this year.
The host of the next tournament was confirmed this Sunday in Tanzania. The President of the Moroccan Football Federation officially received the CAF flag from the hands of CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad. The eight Nations tournament will therefore make its next stop in Northern Africa. Defending Champions, the Baby Lions of Cameroon will then have the responsibility to go and bring back the trophy. In any case, Africa U-17 Nations Cup has grown in popularity and many Africans and especially Cameroonians will be anxiously awaiting 2021, to see if the Baby Lions can still roar on the African football jungle in their category.
The Baby Lions of Cameroon certainly enjoyed the support of the Cameroonian authorities during this tournament. A glaring proof is the presence of Cameroon’s Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Professor Narcise Mouelle Kombi in Tanzania. He boasted the morale of the youngsters together with the FECAFOOT Boss, Seydou Mbombo Njoya. Everything remaining equal, the Boys of Thomas Libiih knew that victory was the watchword. They therefore went for it, saw it and conquered.
First Trophy for Seydou Mbombo Njoya
Perhaps, one of the happiest men in the whole world following the Baby Lions’ triumph in Tanzania is Seydou Mbombo Njoya, the President of the Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT. Since he took total control of FECAFOOT last December, this was his first major trophy won. The football season in Cameroon has been going through some tough times. For the first time in the history of Cameroon football, the National Championship is being played in two poles, owing to the late start of the season. Cameroonian Clubs have performed poorly at the Continental stage with Coron Sport of Garoua and New Stars of Douala failing to qualify for the Group stages of the African Confederation Cup. Cameroon lost the AFCON 2019 hosting rights and participation in the Egypt slide tournament is still uncertain as the Comoros Island has dragged CAF to the Court of Arbitration of Sports, CAS, to disqualify Cameroon despite their brilliant qualification on the green turf. This first trophy can therefore give the FECAFOOT Boss a reason to smile while hoping for more.
Red Carpet Reception
The Baby Lions of Cameroon return to Yaounde this Monday, 29th April, 2019. Cameroonians come out in their numbers and with joyful songs to receive them from the Yaounde International Airport Nsimalen. It is expected that the Kings of African football in the Under 17 category will be received in the Unity Palace in the days ahead. It should be remembered that the Presidential couple received the winners of this category in 2003 and most recently received the Senior selection of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon after their fifth win in Gabon, 2017.
The Baby Lions of Cameroon have certainly received a red carpet reception into the hearts of many Cameroonians especially football lovers. It is now hoped that the romance will last longer.
Isaac Ngong Kum