Still only 22, Alex Song is already one of the stars of the Cameroon side and is hoping to enhance his burgeoning reputation in his first FIFA World Cup™ finals appearance.
The nephew of international team-mate Rigobert, Song lost his father at the age of three. His uncle offered plenty of support and guidance during his childhood and perhaps not surprisingly the youngster quickly developed an interest in football.
Unable to find a club or academy where he could hone his skills, Petit Song, as he is known in the Cameroon side, opted to move to France, joining SC Bastia at the age of 16.
Powerful and technically gifted, the teenager soon began to impress in the Corsican club’s youth sides and within a year had been promoted to the first team, then fighting for survival in Ligue 1. Though Bastia eventually went down, Song had done enough to impress no less an authority on promising talent than Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger. Unwilling to sell their prize asset, Bastia agreed to loan him to the Gunners for one season only in 2005.
Although he played only five Premier League games in his first season, Song made the most of the opportunity to hone his skills with the London club’s star players.
Operating mainly as a defender, the Cameroonian did enough to convince Wenger of his raw ability, with debt-ridden Bastia finally agreeing to sell the player in the summer of 2006. Just as he had done with Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, the French tactician decided to switch Song to a new position, slotting him into a holding role in midfield, one in which he could give full expression to his talent, mopping up loose balls and launching attacks from deep.
Returning from Charlton after a brief loan spell, Song gradually earned a place for himself in the Arsenal first team and has now become one of the foremost figures of a talented crop of players featuring the likes of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. All he needs now to confirm his status is a piece of silverware.
His international career has followed a similar path. Selected for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2008, the previously uncapped Song seized his opportunity, impressing in a side that went all the way to the final before losing to Egypt and even earning a place in the team of the tournament. Though Cameroon failed to match that achievement at Angola 2010, Song maintained his high standards and can be relied upon to do the same in South Africa.