In Italy in 1990, the world first took notice of Cameroon's 'Indomitable Lions' when they reached the quarter finals of the World Cup Football finals, going out 3-2 to England after an epic battle1. African football had arrived as if from nowhere. However, there were signs that African nations were going to be a force in football long before then, and that Cameroon would play a considerable part in this.
The Early Beginnings
Football was introduced to Cameroon in 1880 by European colonists and traders, particularly the Germans, who set up large plantations in the southern part of the country. At that time, it was only played and watched by the colonists themselves.
The first Cameroon national squad was formed in 1950 and it consisted almost entirely of foreign nationals. In the first season, it was only really involved in friendly matches against foreign teams travelling throughout Africa but they did also attend a tournament in France but without any success.
By 1960, there was sufficient interest and local talent for the Cameroon Football Federation (La Fédération Camerounaise de Football (FCF)) to join the nascent Central African Federation, a football association which took in all the Francophone countries of west and central Africa. This gave the club-level footballers access to the increased competition of playing against clubs from Zaire, Gabon, Congo and the Central African Republic.
In 1965, Oryx de Doula won the African club championship. In 1975, Tonnerre de Yaoundé won the African cup winners cup and in 1980, they did the double; winning all the important club silverware in Africa. Le Canon won the the Cup Winner's Cup in 1971 and 1980.
Following the club successes, a much greater interest was developing in the national game, with full houses guaranteed for every home fixture. Cameroon won the African Nations Cup in 1984 and 1988 and qualified for Italia in 1990.
The World Cup
One of the greatest moments in sport happened in Cameroon's opening game against the world cup holders Argentina. Omam Biyick broke free of the Argentine defense and put the ball past the helpless keeper. The goal went unanswered and the world started to take notice.
After the 1990 World Cup, a series of administrative and financial problems occurred which tarnished the reputation of the football federation at home and they went through a bit of a lean period on the field. However, in the 2000 season, things have turned around again. Under the captainship of Rigobert Song and with players such as Alphonse Tchami, Patrick Mboma and Marc Vivien Foé, the Indomitable Lions won the African Nations Cup, followed by the Olympic gold and then topped it all with a creditable draw against the reigning European and World Cup champions France. They may have only come to the world's attention recently but it is fair to say the story of the Lions is far from finished.