Cameroon coach Broos pays tribute to '23 friends'

Cameroon national soccer team coach Hugo Broos is lifted aloft by his players after beating Egypt 2-1 to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations title in Libreville, Gabon on February 5, 2017. PHOTO | BBC 

Cameroon coach Hugo Broos revealed he felt his squad were "becoming a family" as they progressed on route to winning the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

The Indomitable Lions fought back to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final on Sunday and win the title for the first time in 15 years.

The victory in Libreville, Gabon, sparked nightlong celebrations in Cameroon.

On motor bikes

Fans in Yaoundé immediately let go; some on taxi tops, others on motor bikes and blowing vuvuzelas, as music reached a crescendo at various entertainment joints.

"I don't have 23 players, I have 23 friends," Broos told BBC Sport.

"Over the weeks we went from being a squad to becoming a family. It's unbelievable what all the guys did. It is tremendous."

Mohamed Elneny put Egypt ahead but two Cameroon substitutes turned the game around - Nicolas Nkoulou equalised and Vincent Aboubakar struck the winner.

Off the bench

"This was the reason we won the cup, because of the spirit in our camp," Broos added.

"The guys who were on the bench were happy - and the players who came off the bench decided the game."

Cameroon's success was achieved despite eight players refusing the call-up to play at the tournament, with the likes of Liverpool centre-back Joel Matip and West Brom full-back Allan Nyom opting to stay with their clubs.

Cameroon soccer fans celebrate after the Indomitable Lions beat Egypt 2-1 to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations title in Libreville, Gabon on February 5, 2017. PHOTO | BBC

It was suggested by defender Ambroise Oyongo that it served to strengthen the ties between the players who did go to Gabon.

But before the tournament, expectations that Cameroon could win a fifth Nations Cup title were low.

“We can do anything now that the Lions won the trophy: They have not won this tournament for a long time now. We have to celebrate,” a fan told the Africa Review at a Yaoundé drinking joint.

Beside the trophy, Cameroon custodian Fabrice Ondoua was voted the best goalkeeper of the tournament, while Christian Bassogog, who was stretchered out of the field minutes to the end of the final game, emerged the player of the tournament.

Team members

Specially designed Lions jerseys, all bearing No. 17, were handy and the team members wore them immediately after they emerged champions—a dedication to Marc Vivien Foe, an Indomitable Lions midfielder who died during a match at the 2003 Fifa Confederations Cup. He was part of the squad that won the last Afcon crown in 2002.

Also visible in front of the lions “Champions” shirts was the statement: “Forever Cameroon”, a message obviously directed to English speaking Cameroonians who have been protesting against marginalisation in the predominantly French speaking, but constitutionally bilingual country.

It was expected that the government would build on the overflow of joy from the victory to preach national unity.

The arrival

The social media was also flooded with mostly mockery messages to the eight stars who refused Broos’s call-up for the tournament.

The return of the team to Yaoundé Monday was expected to be a great event in the Central African nation.

Communication Minister Issa Tcchiroma Bakary said the government had provided buses to ferry journalists wishing to cover the arrival of the Lions at the Nsimalen International Airport.

President Paul Biya was expected to declare a public holiday to celebrate the outstanding performance of the team that was rated by many as the underdogs. 

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