World Cup: Second Teams

Second Teams: Cameroon

Editor’s note: This post is part of PSP’s World Cup series, in which PSP’s writers and a few honored guests make the case for which team you should root for in the World Cup after the United States. Read the full series here.

June 8, 1990 was a typical Friday in my world. I had finished teaching and was walking into to town to have dinner with my postmates. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, a tiny country south of Cameroon. Every Friday night we’d get together to have dinner, drink some Regabs (the national beer of Gabon) and share the last week’s classroom horror stories.

I lived in Koulomoutu, which was a rather large town population wise. It was very spread out — from my house on the hill I could see huts for what seemed to be miles. We had an airport, well a runway, and got mail twice a week.

As I walked into town, I would pass a few typical scenes — boys playing soccer in the streets, women coming back from the fields carrying heavy loads on their heads, girls buying food for dinner from tiny stores and men sitting in front of their houses drinking coffee.

So on that Friday, as I walked, it became apparent that something was different. No kids playing soccer, no men drinking coffee, no girls buying food — the poor women were still walking around with giant baskets on their heads — the entire village was quiet, no one was out.

Cameroon FAI had no idea what was going on until I got to the first little store on my walk. It was no more than a tiny shack,maybe 20ft x 10ft, and in it was crammed as many men as could fit, plus some spilling out the door — think clown car. As I walked past I saw that they were all watching something on a tiny black and white TV, but I couldn’t see what it was so I kept walking.

Once in the center of town, nothing changed: no people, no kids, no cars, not a sound. It was kinda creepy.

And then a sound like I have never heard before — a collective scream louder than anything you’ve heard at PPL Park — erupted from all corners of the town. Every person was cheering because Les Lions Indomptables — The Indomitable Lions — had scored against the great Argentina.

I still get chills thinking about it.

That game was the beginning of a run that ended in the quarterfinals, the furthest any African team had gotten in the World Cup. African soccer had arrived on the world scene.

This is why I love soccer. The passion and zeal the fans of the world have for their team, even if it’s not their country. No other sport can generate that feeling of nationalism, that patriotic fervor.

I was hooked. So every World Cup I cheer for Cameroon, not because I know any of the players or tactics, but because I know that in villages all over Africa, in tiny rooms crammed full of people watching little TVs, there are thousands of passionate fans cheering for the Lions.

A shop in Gabon much like the one I describe.

A shop in Gabon much like the one I describe.

My local soccer stadium in Gabon

My local soccer stadium in Gabon

One Comment

  1. Loved this! Thanks for sharing.

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