34th AFCON: Lions Go, Go…!

Cameroonians from across the globe will this Monday January 15, 2024 focus attention in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, where their darling national football team, the Indomitable Lions, take on their counterparts from Guinea in one of the Group C games. All hopes are high that the debut of the five-time African champions in the 34th Africa Cup of Nations which officially began on Saturday January 13 will be on a good footing. This, with the pious hope that when the 24-nation competition rounds off on February 11, 2024, the Lions would bag home the sixth continental trophy. Legitimate aspirations for fans of participating nations!
The Cameroonian hopefuls are almost over 28 million (estimated population of the country), but the materialization of the dream is on the shoulders of the 27-man selection defending the national colours in Côte d'Ivoire. They are therefore carrying the entire country on the heads, hearts and legs. Daunting but surmountable task for lead trainer, Rigobert Song and his boys. The head coach is a former and emblematic captain of the team and he did so at the time the squad won some of the continental trophies and marveled the world with dazzling football made in Cameroon. He surely knows how much of football flows in the veins of Cameroonians. Song might not have had a great coaching pedigree, thus far, but his experience in the den is what is needed to be imparted in the players he has picked for the competition to deliver the goods.
Some might consider the high expectations of Cameroonians for an overall win in the ongoing AFCON as too ambitious, especially judging from the team’s output in recent years and the evolution of other teams on the continent. More so as the Lions appear to be fast losing their firing power. However, what football glories have done in the national psyche of the nation in its diversity requires even more victories. The team’s diehard supporters would say a lion remains a lion and must roar no matter what.  
The national harmony the five trophies brought to the people each time they were won affirmed that what unites the people far exceeds what can divide them. Thus, stretching full length to win another trophy shouldn’t be bargained for. This would be a wonderful gift and a strong motivating factor for the Cameroonian youth who each year celebrate the Youth Day on February 11. In fact, a source of inspiration for the youngsters this year given that the Head of State, Paul Biya, has severally used the Indomitable Lions as a shining example of determination and glory for the country’s youth.  
Taking one’s self to the pinnacle and being looked upon as a role model and qualified as such was the legacy the yesteryear’s generation of the Indomitable Lions bequeathed in the team. The challenge now is for the current and relatively young team to uphold the legacy and write their own page in the country’s football history. The time is now and the occasion is the 34th AFCON underway. Côte d'Ivoire 2024 therefore offers the team an opportunity to write bookmakers wrong who severally place them among the competition’s strugglers. 
In effect, the team has learnt to shine sometimes when least expected. Gabon 2017 where they went, saw, fought and conquered the 5th crown is a brilliant example that can be emulated. Some of the then stars of the Gabonese exploits are still in the national selection. They should therefore contaminate the rest of the group with that conquering spirit thanks to which victories are won.
Inasmuch as Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions may not yet have the cohesion and individuality that sometimes make the difference in topnotch competitions like the AFCON, their state of mind will be crucial in giving Cameroonians the sweet memories of the glorious football days. Accepting an underdog position and playing as such would be detrimental to them and the entire population who are eagerly looking up to the Lions to once again go, go and bring home sweet victories. The players must prove to football analysts that in any competition, like in a battle, what matters most is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Cameroonians need their Lions to roar and today’s takeoff must be made masterly.
Playing alongside Guinea, defending champions Senegal and the Gambia in the group stage will not be an easy task. Results of their pre-tournament test matches suggest what the ‘Group of death,’ as Group C has been qualified by many observers, will produce beginning today. 
All the teams would certainly set out to silence the king of the forest and move as far as possible ...

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