World Cup Legends: Cameroon & Theophile Abega

by Back Page Football

théophile abegaBorn on the 09th July 1954 in the Mfoundi department of Yaoundé, Abega would grow up to join Canon Sportif de Yaoundé in 1974 whilst in full time education. He was still studying at the Lycée Général Leclerc Obala when first called into the national team in 1976 and starring in the 1-0 1977 Cameroonian Cup final victory against Caïman de Douala. Abega would remain at Canon Yaoundé for ten years during perhaps their greatest period which saw the club take four Cameroon Championships [1977, 1979, 1980 and 1982], five Cameroon Cups [1975-8 and 1983], two African Champions Cups [1978 and 1980] as well as an African Cup Winners Cup [1979]. It was also during this time that Abega would be named ‘Doctor’ by one of Cameroon’s best known commentators Zachary Nkwo for being “a true doctor of football due to his magnificent passing skills”. It was a title that would stay with him.

The core of Yaoundé including Thomas N’kono [captain], Emmanuel Kundé and Abega would be part of the historic Indomitable Lions team that took Cameroon to their first World Cup in 1982. The Lions were one of the surprise packages in Spain that summer, drawing their three games against Poland, Peru and Italy before unluckily going home on the goals scored rule. The World Cup performance would act as a springboard for the African Cup of Nations tournament of 1984 held in the Ivory Coast. The team had matured and by now ‘Dr’ Théophile was captain. This tournament would perhaps mark his crowning achievement as a player.

A narrow 1-0 loss to Egypt was followed by a 4-1 victory over Togo [in which Abega scored twice], then a 2-0 win over the hosts. The semi-final saw Cameroon go through on penalties against a strong Algerian team [themselves building on a strong – but in their case infamous 1982 World Cup]. The final would see Cameroon take on Nigeria. Muda Lawal put Nigeria ahead the equalizer coming from René N’Djeya. The match appeared to be heading for extra time when Abega stepped up in the 79th minute. Dribbling past the Nigerian midfield, Abega drove at the defense, then a one–two with Roger Milla before collecting the ball and calmly slotting the ball home. Cameroon would score a third to take their first continental title and Abega African Footballer of the Year.

Cameroon’s second goal in the final perhaps showed the essence of ‘the Doctor’, dribbling, drive and pace. It also showed one of the qualities that great players possess – the ability to step up when it matters. Abega had others – intelligence and the capability to inspire others.

After the tournament Abega had spells in France and Switzerland before his career was ended by injury following which he entered politics becoming Mayor of Yaoundé IV. It was a position he held until his untimely death in November 2012 which perhaps saw the passing of one of the greatest midfielders Africa has produced.

Greatest Squad – Starting XI

THOMAS N’KONO

LAUREN             RIGOBERT SONG        EMMANUEL KUNDÉ     BERTIN EBWELLÉ

CYRIL MAKANAKY        MARC VIVIEN-FOÉ       THÉOPHILE ABEGA     LOUIS-PAUL M’FÉDÉ

ROGER MILLA SAMUEL ETO’O

Greatest Squad – Reserves

GK: JOSEPH-ANTOINE BELL
GK: IDRISS CARLOS KAMENI
RB: STEPHAN TATAW
LB: PIERRE WOMÉ
CB: IBRAHIM AOUDOU
CB: RAYMOND KALLA
CDM: ANDRÉ KANA-BIYIK
RM: GEREMI NJITAP
LM: SOLOMON OLEMBÉ
ST: FRANÇOIS OMAM-BIYIK
ST: PATRICK M’BOMA
ST: SAMUEL MBAPPÉ LEPPE

Created by Alan Robins |  Image created by Jorge Manuel Martins

Tune in throughout the World Cup as the series unfolds

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