Cameroon’s early exit from the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ still rankles back home, but the Indomitable Lions now have the perfect opportunity to put their humbling Asian experience behind them. The FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 is almost upon us and the large Cameroon community in France is getting excited at the prospect of cheering on their heroes. We headed for the aptly named “Lion Indomptable” restaurant in Paris to get a fan’s perspective of the upcoming continental showdown.
Owner Marcel Boum is one of the Lions’ most fervent supporters, and cannot wait for the competition to begin. After all, Cameroon are bound to win and that is another great excuse for a party!
Finding the “Lion Indomptable” is an achievement in itself. Tucked away at the end of the rue de la Réunion, behind the Place de la Nation in the east of Paris, the restaurant looks like an old rundown bar - until you go through the front door that is.
While all is grey on the outside, the restaurant is a blaze of colour inside. A burst of yellows, reds and greens dazzle you at first, and then as you gradually adjust to your new surroundings, you notice the walls are covered from floor to ceiling with team photos and posters. Even the lampshades are made from photos of the national side down the years. The “Lion Indomptable” is quite obviously part restaurant, part football museum, and owner Marcel Boum part cook, part curator. Today, the gregarious 41-year-old is wearing a straw hat, a flashy “Lions Indomptables 2002” shirt - and a huge smile.
“Guys who gave 110%"
There are two televisions in the restaurant - one in each room - and a video to show great matches of days gone by. Tonight the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™ forms the televised backdrop, featuring a Cameroon side that was “the greatest of them all”, according to Marcel. “It was packed with guys who gave 110%,” he says, serving up delicious Chicken Yassa before shaking his head at the memory. “We were unbeaten you know, but we went out on goal difference to the Italians.”
Then there was the historic 1990 side and the “phenomenon” known as Roger Milla. Marcel jumps up at the mention of the great man, and proudly brandishes a photo of himself arm in arm with the national hero. Then he tells of all the Cameroon legends who have stepped through his door: Jacques Songoo, Lucien Mettomo, and the new French international Jean-Alain Boumsong - who originally hails from Cameroon of course. International footballers are regulars here: “I have an agreement with the Cameroon Football Association - they send the guys over,” he says. p>On match nights, it is standing room only at the "Lion Indomptable”. “Sixty people cram in and there’s no room to sit down,” Marcel explains. “During the last World Cup, we used to record the games in the morning and show them again in the evening.” French TV even broadcast a special report live from the restaurant during the African Cup of Nations. “There were people everywhere. It was quite a party. And now the Cup of Nations is ours!” he laughs.
The FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 should follow the same festive scenario off the pitch. As for events on the park, Marcel is hoping for a show of pride from his side. “The lads were tired when they got to Asia last year. Spending three days in an aeroplane can’t have been easy. And then when they got there they played a friendly virtually the minute they stepped off the plane,” he says wistfully.
Indomitable or unpredictable?
Recent friendly defeats, including a 3-0 loss to Côte d’Ivoire in Châteauroux, France back in February, do not concern him in the slightest: “They don’t mean anything. They were friendlies and more like practice matches.” Marcel firmly believes his side can win the FIFA Confederations Cup, but does recognise that nothing is ever quite straightforward with Cameroon: “Of course we can win, but with the Lions, you never know. There’s always a surprise. That’s why we’re Indomitable!”
For him, the players are bound to be pumped up because they have a lot to prove: “Many of them are at the end of their contracts and need to show what they’re worth if they are to ensure a bright future for themselves.” And then there are the youngsters who are pushing hard. “A lot of people are talking about a kid who plays in Eastern Europe and there’s another one in Belgium I think,” confides Marcel.
His greatest dream would be to beat Brazil. “That would be really good. We beat them once before, at the Sydney Olympics with the Under 21s. Ronaldinho was playing for the Seleçao that day,” he remembers. As for France, well of course that game always has special connotations for Marcel, who came to the country to pursue his studies back in 1985 and never left. “You get used to the place, to the community, and you end up feeling at home,” he explains. “For me it’s quite simple; when Cameroon aren’t playing I support France”.
No need to ask Marcel who his favourites are. "Cameroon of course. All we have to do is turn up," he jokes, before bursting into laughter yet again. France, naturally, are not far behind: "Even without Zidane, they’re a great side. They have so many fantastic players."
Marcel is counting the days before the FIFA Confederations Cup gets underway. He hopes for a great tournament, and with a final grin confidently predicts: “We’re gonna win!”