You were part of the gold medal-winning team for Cameroon at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. How did it feel to stand on top of the podium?
It was an incredible feeling, especially because we had some difficulties during the tournament. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you again to all my teammates, my ”fellow soldiers”, during this tournament. Because it was really tough – but in the end we won the gold medal by beating Spain despite trailing by two goals to nil in the final.
I thought I had scored the winning goal in the last few seconds of extra-time but the flag went up for offside. Thankfully, we won the penalty shootout 5-3 to win the first ever Olympic gold medal in any sport for Cameroon. To have the privilege to be part of such a historic moment for my country at an early stage in my career was really special and something I will never forget.
Do any matches in particular stand out in your memory from Sydney?
Yes, against Brazil, in the quarter-final when the match went into extra time with the golden goal rule. Brazil had a great team with players such as Ronaldinho and were the favourites to win the tournament. Not many people fancied us to beat Brazil, but we always believed, even when we had two players sent off, meaning we played extra time with just nine players. In the second half of extra time, Modeste Mbami scored the winning goal that sent us through to the next round and kept our dream of creating history alive.
I will always remember the moment when Modeste scored. We all began to run after him to celebrate. While eight or nine of us all chased after him, the Brazilians put the ball back in the centre circle, believing the match would continue. But the game was over and we had qualified with the golden goal. To win an Olympic gold medal was really special and is something I will always treasure.
Will you be following the football tournament at the Olympics in Tokyo?
Anyone who is passionate about sport will naturally follow the Olympic Games. It is a major sporting competition and those who love sport will not miss it.
I will be watching the athletics, swimming…there are so many sports to follow. The Olympics is the pinnacle for sport in general. For footballers we all want to be at a World Cup, which is the biggest event for us, but for other sports, it’s all about the Olympic Games.
The football tournament at the Olympics will always have a special place in my heart having won the tournament with Cameroon in 2000. With the teams restricted to using mostly players that are under 23, it is a great opportunity to develop younger players and give them an opportunity to represent their country at a major international tournament. The Olympics has helped create many stars of the future so I will of course be watching in the hope that we see some exciting young players make a name for themselves. I am looking forward to seeing Ivory Coast, South Africa and Egypt, who will be representing Africa. Hopefully they can perform well and do their countries proud at the tournament.
What are the similarities between the World Cup and the Olympic Games?
They are both huge competitions. Both are the pinnacle of sport. Every athlete dreams of winning gold at the Olympics, while every footballer dreams of scoring the winning goal at the World Cup. In my opinion, the next World Cup in Qatar will be the greatest event. It will be a special tournament and the first time it is hosted in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted the fans at this year’s Olympics in Japan, but hopefully next year we will see full stadiums in Qatar for the World Cup. The Olympics and the World Cup are real celebrations of sport where millions of dreams can come true.
What are your hopes for the World Cup in Qatar?
I have no doubt that it will be the most beautiful World Cup ever organised. And I have one wish – to witness a final featuring Cameroon versus Qatar for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I would encourage everyone to come to Qatar for this special tournament. We have so much to offer here and I hope fans don’t miss the chance to visit and watch two matches a day in the group stage. That is something so unique that they can tell their grandchildren – that’s if they don’t bring their grandchildren with them! There are so many beautiful places to visit here in Doha. Fans can have an amazing holiday while also following their passion, football. The weather in December in Qatar is usually around 20 degrees, so it will be perfect conditions for the players, but also for the fans, who I’m sure will have an amazing time exploring Qatar during the tournament.
What’s an example of your perfect day in Qatar?
It’s a day like today. I wake up, I do some work, then later maybe I will go to Souq Al Wakrah. I go all the time for the amazing scents and sensations. When people recognise me they are like ‘What is he doing here?’ but I love that place. Then I love to spend my evenings at Katara. I like the restaurants up high on Katara Hills where you have an amazing, peaceful view and can enjoy the sunset.