Mawaye: “We need a result against Portugal”
His smile is every bit as winning as his dribbling ability. Gentleness personified off the field, centre forward Joseph Mawaye takes no prisoners once he laces up for a game. The Lion Cub has scored both Cameroon goals in the tournament so far. Two in two matches is a healthy return, but not enough to satisfy young Joseph: “I want to score four” he says, “I’ve set the bar pretty high for this competition.” Portugal be warned.
“We know we’ll be up against it against Portugal” says Mawaye. “We can’t afford any slip-ups so we’ll be doing all we can to go through. We’ll be straight into them from the off. We need to get a result.”
The striker joined Dreams FC U-14 side three years ago and has since made it into the Douala club’s first team, which turn out in the country’s third division. Joseph was just sixteen when he broke into the senior outfit and remains the side’s youngest member today. “I’m learning huge amounts from the older players. They teach me not to waste my energy uselessly and how to read the game better.”
With one goal in his side’s opener against Brazil and another three days later against Yemen, it would appear hat Joseph is paying heed to the advice of his elders. The youngster has that uncanny knack of popping up in the right place at the right time: “I try to put myself in the opposition’s shoes, anticipate what they will do next and intercept.” Unlike his all-time hero Ronaldo, explosive running and dazzling dribbling do not figure in Joseph’s game. “Ronaldo is a phenomenon. In 2002 he came back from injury to finish top scorer at the World Cup. He’s like lightning.”
“At U-17 level you don’t want your opponents to get the upper hand because they are your equals”
Joseph Mawaye dreams of turning professional, playing for a big club and turning out for the Indomitable Lions’ senior side one day, just like Samuel Eto’o: “His goal against Brazil in the Confederations Cup was magnificent. I was at home in Cameroon, in front of the television with my family. It had us leaping in the air."
Cameroon legend Roger Milla has been giving him advice in the changing room before the matches. “He gives the strikers the benefit of his experience. He tells us not to try to score on our own. I think he’s absolutely right: football is a team game. The team comes first," says Mawaye, who shares his room and Playstation with Didier Kouakam.
“Our mental attitude gives us the edge. We have a lot of self-belief. That’s the basis of every side. We have all the rest, the physique and the technique too. When you put all that together you’ve got a winning team. Because unlike the pros, U-17 games are always challenging: you don’t want your opponents to get the upper hand because they are your equals.”
If they are to reach the quarter-finals, Joseph and his Cameroon team-mates will need to overcome Portugal. Humiliated by Brazil in their last match, the European champions will be going all out to restore some wounded pride, so the game should be a high-octane affair. Another goal would come in handy: “I intend to score. If I am going to get two more I’ll need to play well against Portugal,” says the soft-spoken teenager. “To score in a World Cup is always incredible. It may not be the real one, but it’s the biggest competition around for my age group.”