Sunday 09 June 2019, 14:30

The inseparable trio who make Cameroon tick

  • Three of Cameroon’s most important players are very close friends

  • They all played at Canada 2015 together

  • “It’s our duty not to disappoint the fans,” they said

By Cynthia Nzetia with Cameroon

There are three players in the Cameroon squad who, when included in the same line-up, are known for increasing the African side’s chances of winning a match. “Those three are inseparable on and off the pitch,” said Christine Manie, captain of Les Lionnes. “For example, when we’re having a group discussion and one of them loses the thread of what they’re saying, one of the other two will finish her sentence for her. It’s pretty funny. On the pitch, it’s the same thing: when one makes a mistake, one of the others appears to help out.”

The players in question, Gabrielle Onguene, Ajara Nchout and Raissa Feudjio, are as different as they are complementary, but they are three of the team’s most crucial components.

“Gabrielle just sparkles; she’s full of spirit,” continued Manie. “Ajara covers every blade of grass – she gives everything she's got for her country. As for Raissa, she’s like all of the people from her region, in the west of Cameroon: in everyday life, she’s pretty quiet, but on the pitch she embodies the idea of the Indomitable Lion.”

The triumvirate have now been part of the national set-up for almost ten years. “We’ve experienced everything you can think of, from the pain of defeat to the joy of victory,” said Onguene, who rose to prominence in Canada. “We’ve grown and matured together. It’s things like that which make the squad stronger and even more close-knit than it was four years ago.”

Playing for the jersey

In a quirk of fate, they will make their grand entrance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ against the country in which they created their greatest national-team memories: Canada. “They’re a strong side and we respect them,” said Nchout, a forward who, rather curiously, wears the No3 jersey. “But football is not an exact science – on the pitch, anything can happen. We’ve prepared well for this match and for the World Cup as a whole.

“The main thing the three of us have in common is that our heart is green, red and yellow. We have a deep love of our country. We proudly give our all when we wear the Cameroon jersey. There’s no doubt about that."

At Canada 2015, Cameroon’s first appearance on women’s football’s greatest stage, they succeeded in reaching the Round of 16, and the influential trio played an important part in that unexpected success. Four years down the line, their increase in acumen has enabled them to set loftier targets and to take a step back and review their results four years ago a little more objectively.

“Getting out of our group at a tournament where we were making our debut might seem like a pleasing performance, but, looking back, I feel like we could have gone further,” said Onguene.

She concluded: “We’re from Cameroon. Our country loves football so much and we have to make the people proud of their Lionnes Indomptables. We can already feel a real buzz in the air, and it’s not because of pressure or stress: it’s people supporting us and showing a lot of enthusiasm. It’s our duty not to disappoint them.”