Cameroon were the home fans’ favourites in Sunday’s final Group B game of the Confederations Cup in Sochi. Even though Germany won 3-1, the Indomitable Lions were continuously cheered to the end in a game where they were reduced to 10 men in the second half.
30, 230 fans packed the Fisht Olympic Stadium to see the African champions take on the world champions in a game that struggled to impress in the first period.
But four goals in the second half made up for the dour opening.
The day started with early showers that threatened to mar the experience but soon gave way to a nice sunny afternoon.
I met several Cameroonian fans who came in from across the country to see the game. Many of them students in Moscow and Krasnodar came to support the Lions and were the delight of locals who stopped them for photos.
I was mistaken for a Cameroonian myself and was regularly stopped for photos by locals.
But I was happy to see so many Africans in Sochi having lived here for many months and seeing less than 10 in my entire time in the city.
From the beginning of the game, Sochi showed a preference for the Lions as they continuously screamed “Cameroon, Cameroon, Cameroon” during the playing of the national anthem. Perhaps it was a conscious attempt to make up for the fiasco of the Sochi carnival last month or it was all about supporting the underdog with Russia having exited the tournament at the hands of Mexico a day before.
This support continued into the game with a boisterous cheer accompanying every forward surge of the Cameroonians towards the German goal. If cheering could win matches, the Lions should have thrashed the Germans.
Unfortunately, the world champions were the better side despite playing without many of their first team players in this competition.
Cameroon returned to the Confederations Cup for the first time since 2003 when they finished second behind France. That was the year Marc-Vivien Foe died during the semi-final. An acknowledgement of the former Lion was made by the announcer before the game and I met a German fan afterwards who scribbled a remembrance on a piece of paper.
Among some of the other Africans I met was an Ivorian medical student who is based in Krasnodar and three Moroccan fans who came to support Cameroon. I also met a Nigerian man who came in from Lagos for the competition.
Despite all the support, the stars did not align for the Lions and they will now return to Yaounde for the holidays while their technical crew would make an appraisal of why things went wrong ahead of their double 2018 World Cup qualifying matches against Nigeria in August and September.
Germany’s victory ensured they topped the group and will now welcome Mexico to Sochi for the semi-final on Thursday while Portugal will take on Chile in Kazan the day before.
The stadiums have not been full this tournament but one hopes that the World Cup gets greater support.
Fans have complained of the confusion over the newly introduced Fan IDs, which represents a visa for international fans as well as secondary entry document into the stadiums alongside match day tickets.
An official of the Cameroon team also informed me about the logistic issues they faced with bus delays for their training due to traffic in Moscow.
There was also the visible booing from fans when the video assistant referee (VAR) came on during a review of the incident that led to the sending off of the Cameroonian player, Ernest Mabouka .
All these are some of the things that would need to be fixed before the big fiesta of 2018.