Montpellier were unexpectedly crowned Ligue 1 champions in France last year, beating the big-spending Paris Saint Germain by three points. The star player in the side from the Mediterranean coast was Oliver Giroud, who was the top scorer in the league and has since moved on to Arsenal in the English Premier League. The team's other mainstay, though not as high-profile as his striking colleague, was Cameroonian Henri Bedimo, whose tally of 36 league appearances was matched only by Giroud.
With Cameroon posting mixed results over recent months, the 28-year-old defender's mood has further been frustrated by his French club taking just one point from a possible six at the start of the new season. "After the first two League games, we should have at least four points. We need to focus on efficiency now, to improve our points position."
Although clearly determined, Bedimo is aware that it will be a tough task to pull off another success like last season's. "It will be difficult to repeat our performance and keep the national title,” he said. "Our ambition is at least to do well in all competitions and try our best in the Champions League. But our everyday stuff is still the Ligue 1."
The Champions League is another challenge Bedimo is looking forward to, saying: "We must be ready to face any team and be at our best. Much will depend on the draw. I'm torn between the excitement of being able to play against one or two very big teams on the one hand, but on the other, wanting to stay in the competition for as long as possible and enjoy it."
Our opponents? Our first opponent is ourselves.
With Giroud’s move to Arsenal, Bedimo is aware that it will not be easy to find a replacement, but he believes the side will be successful without him. "Any team would be affected when losing a centre-forward of his quality. Having said that, last year one of the reasons for our success was that we were a collective. We should now adapt our game to what we have at the moment."
The current Montpellier side is relatively young side, but Bedimo says that older, experienced players have no special status in the team. "Towards my younger team-mates, I do not have a particular role. I try to bring my experience and fighting spirit in the game, but there is no hierarchical difference between the players."
Bedimo joined Grenoble as a teenager in 2002 and then moved to Ligue 1 club Toulouse, where he found his playing time limited. A drop in league to Le Havre and later to Chateauroux saw him gain valuable experience. "I reap the fruits of the hard work I began when playing in Ligue 2, and then with RC Lens. Now I play in a team that enables me to use my offensive skills, and defensively I have gained in discipline and concentration. My ambition is to keep developing."
A latecomer to the Indomitable Lions
A left-sided defender, Bedimo has always been an admirer of the great Brazilian Roberto Carlos. "I have always liked his style. I liked his qualities as a counter-attacker. You can always discuss his defensive qualities, say he was part of a side that attacked more than it defended, but he always forced his opponents to defend."
Bedimo, who was relative latecomer to the Cameroon national side, is hoping that he will be playing in Roberto Carlos' native country in two years when the five-time world champions host the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ finals for the second time. "I did not participate in the World Cup in 2010, but I helped the team qualify. We had a good preparation, but then the team disappointed at the tournament. This is proof that the greatest enemy of the Indomitable Lions are the Lions themselves."
Drawn into Group I in the Brazil preliminaries, the team has won one and lost one and the defender believes that Cameroon can still make it, though it will not be easy. "Our opponents? Our first opponent is ourselves. We are able to play great games, but we also have to beat teams that are not stronger than us. This is where we came unstuck recently against Libya [who beat Cameroon 2-1], without being unkind to this team.
"The DR Congo match is a derby. The psychological aspect is important in that kind of game. We know the Leopards well, and we often beat them in the past. So we have gained confidence against them. It should be in our favour."