Carlos Idriss Kameni can already be considered a veteran of the Cameroon national team, even at the tender age of 26.
Espanyol’s current No1 took part in the 1999 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Nigeria when he was only 15, and notably won gold in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Sydney the following year. He has been part of the national team set-up for nine years, and in 2003 at the age of 20 succeeded the legendary Jacques Songo’o.
That said, this imposing cat-like figure (1.86m tall and weighing 86kg) will make his FIFA World Cup™ debut at South Africa 2010. He was part of the squad for Korea/Japan 2002 but spent the whole tournament as an unused substitute.
Kameni is both frustrated by so many years in the finals’ wilderness and excited at the prospect of entering Cameroon’s football hall of fame. "I don’t know if an African country will be world champions, but it will of course be an advantage for us to see our fans in the stadiums," he told us back in 2007. "If I were in one of the established teams, I would be wary."
Ever since this fan of hip-hop made his debut for the famous Douala sports academy team Kadji Sport Academies, he has frustrated many of the world’s best strikers. Kameni has stunning reflexes and a natural command of the penalty area, and was voted best African goalkeeper for the 2006/07 season.
By this time he had been in outstanding form in goal for Espanyol for two seasons. His idol Thomas N’Kono was goalkeeping coach at the club, and was perfectly placed to help Kameni develop both on and off the pitch. Since his first season he has stood out as a penalty expert, coming out on top against players such as Ronaldo, Fernando Torres and Julio Baptista.
Having only played three matches in four seasons at Le Havre, this converted striker from the working-class Biyem-Assi area of Yaounde can be commended for never turning his back on the game. He has since made up for this with more than 170 appearances in an Espanyol shirt, and a strong showing at South Africa 2010 could even lead to a move to one of the world’s bigger clubs.
Known as ‘Caka’ (the first two letters of his first and last names) to his international team-mates, he was a CAF Africa Cup of Nations winner in 2002, runner-up in 2008 and quarter-finalist in 2004, 2006 and 2010. At club level he can also point to a Copa del Rey winner’s medal from 2006, and was a losing finalist in the 2007 UEFA Cup.