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Cameroon 1990: The day of the Makossa

By Bernard Marcout
Posted on Monday, 14 June 2010 09:24

As part of our Saga Africa series, The Africa Report takes a look at

memorable African moments from World Cup history. In Italia 1990 Roger Milla’s Cameroon reached the quarter-finals.

Undefeated at the 1982 World Cup, the Indomitable Lions led by the then-30-year-old Roger Milla soared to even greater heights in Italy. Once again the son of Yaoundé – now even ?older and pulled from his retirement on Reunion Island by sheer fan pressure – played a key role.?

The Lions’ Soviet coach, Valeri Nepomniachi, had decided to field only one striker, François Omam-Biyik, leaving Milla on the bench.

In the first game, Milla saw action only in the last eight minutes as his team – through a header from Oman-Biyik – beat Diego Maradona’s Argentina 1-0.?

Milla was back on the bench against Romania, but this time the Lions tip-toed until he came on. In the space of 10 minutes of explosive football punctuated by Milla’s trademark flare and quick reaction, he scored twice and sent Cameroon soaring into the last 16. At the age of 38 years and 20 days, he became the oldest World Cup goal scorer. “I’m just a reserve officer, proud to have served my country for 20 years,” he said humbly in the wake of a match that wooed the world for its excitement and for Milla’s makossa hot-step around the corner flag.

The dance was remembered long after the match. “I just improvised,”he says. “I’m amazed that my little hip wiggle caught on with players ?everywhere. When I was on the pitch, I wasn’t thinking that there were cameras on me. And when I scored against Romania I was so happy for the team that I just behaved as though I was at home. It just came to me spontaneously, subconsciously.”?

On 23 July in Naples he came up against Colombia – and its legendary keeper René Higuita – for a place in the quarter-finals. No African team had ever made it to the last eight.

Twice during extra time, Milla had the adoring crowd roaring with excitement. The first time, he flew through the Colombian defence to overcome Higuita. Then, moments later, he took the ball off the ill-?positioned goalie to make it a historic and decisive 2-1. “He wanted to dribble me, but you don’t dribble Milla,” he exclaimed.?

Finally knocked out by England (3-2 on penalties) the Cameroonians were in tears – but their place as a force to be reckoned with had been assured. Milla graduated from hero to legend.

Profile: Marc-Vivien Foé, the lion who sleeps

The late Cameroonian international Marc-Vivien Foé was 28 years old when he died in Lyon on 26 June 2003 during the Confederations Cup semi-final against Colombia. Doctors said his death was heart-related after they discovered evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that can lead to sudden death during exercise.?

Foé’s death shocked the worldwide football community. Foé had played both in England and France – for Manchester City, West Ham, Lens and Lyon – after starting his career at Canon de Yaoundé in 1994.?

Capped 65 times, he ranked as one of the top players in the African Cups of Nations of 2000 and 2002. He also played in the 1994 and 2002 World Cups.

On 28 June 2009, a public tribute was held in his honour in Johannesburg after the Brazil-United States final of the Confederations Cup.

This article was first published in The Africa Report World Cup 2010 special edition in May 2010.

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