Christian Bassogog’s inclusion in Cameroon’s squad to face Malawi in next month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier appears to be an impulsive reaction from the Indomitable Lions after this weekend’s international retirement of Benjamin Moukandjo.
Perhaps no African nation has as much difficulty in getting all of their best players on the pitch at the same time as Cameroon.
Since the 2014 World Cup, an extensive list of the nation’s top stars have all called time on their international career temporarily, or permanently retired prematurely from Indomitable Lions duty.
Samuel Eto’o, Alex Song, Allan Nyom Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting, Joel Matip, Nicolas Nkoulou are just some of the players to have contrasted success at club level with inactivity from the international set-up.
Two days after Benji Moukandjo announces his international retirement, @Bassogog17 receives an immediate recall to the Cameroon fold...despite still playing in China.
This was an unusually early squad announcement as well.
Seedorf's decision, or @FecafootOfficie's?#Reactive pic.twitter.com/08aAVAp0xL — Ed Dove (@EddyDove) September 24, 2018
Moukandjo, the nation’s captain, became the latest player to add his name to this list on Saturday when he formally announced his retirement from international duty.
The 29-year-old’s decision was taken in response to new coach Clarence Seedorf opting to overlook him for his first squad ahead of the 1-1 draw in Comoros earlier this month.
The Dutch great announced, when unveiling his team, that he wouldn’t be considering players plying their trade in “China or Asia”, with Beijing Renhe attacker Moukandjo the most high-profile casualty.
It was a proclamation that went down badly with the former FC Lorient man, who also expressed his disdain for Seedorf’s handling of the situation when he announced his retirement this weekend.
"I found the recent comments by Mr. Clarence Seedorf very brash and unfair,” Moukandjo began.
“Unfair because, despite being the team captain, I never received a call from the coach to inform me about his decision.
"My real level and that of my other teammates should've been assessed on the pitch before the coach made his decision to sideline any player.”
Moukandjo represents a key loss for the Central Africans, with the attacker having played a key role—both on and off the pitch—as the Lions won an unexpected Africa Cup of Nations title in Gabon in February 2017.
Indeed, he appeared primed to lead the team out for their title defence on home soil next summer…until Seedorf’s idealistic approach to squad selection was revealed.
"I am proud of the time I spent with the Indomitable Lions and I would like to thank all my teammates who supported and trusted in me,” Moukandjo continued.
“I am convinced in all humility that I have accomplished my mission, living up to the expectations of my country,” he added.
"I wish the team good luck for the next Africa Cup of Nations and I hope they will be able to win it for the honour of Cameroon.”
While Moukandjo’s international career is now a thing of the past, Seedorf must now move quickly and decisively so as not to lose another one of the national team’s key assets.
It would have been almost unthinkable, back in February 2017, to have considered that Bassogog’s international career would be halted only 19 months later.
He burst onto the scene as Hugo Broos’s X-Factor during the Afcon success, winning the Player of the Tournament award en route to the continental crown.
The 22-year-old duly secured a move to the Chinese Super League, and has scored 15 in 44 for Henan Jianye since his move.
His decision to switch to China appeared to have cost him when Seedorf named his first squad for the Comoros draw, although the Dutch coach’s step-down on Monday hints at a clear desire not to lose the wideman.
Indeed, the youngster was the headline inclusion in the Cameroon squad to face Malawi in mid-October, and his place in the squad suggests either that FECAFOOT have exerted significant pressure on Seedorf, or that the manager himself has reevaluated his position.
Either way, while the incoming coach arguably looks weaker for revising his proclamation on African players in China, Cameroon are certainly stronger for making steps to ensure Bassogog doesn’t follow in Moukandjo’s footsteps.