After one of the strongest periods in their football history, Central African Republic have had a mixed time of it on the road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. However, even with other challenges coming from instability in the country and the forced movement of their upcoming home qualifier with South Africa, the captain of the Les Fauves de Bas-Oubangui (the Wild Beasts of the Lower Ubangi), Eloge Enza-Yamissi, tells FIFA.com that the team are staying positive.
“Beating South Africa is well within our reach. We know we can win as we had opportunities in our first game against them (a 2-0 loss in March),” said the veteran midfielder, who did lament not being able to play Bafana Bafana in capital Bangui, where the team have been unbeatable over the last decade. The match will instead be played in Cameroon's capital Yaounde on 8 June before the CAR head to Botswana for their penultimate Group A game a week later.
“If we can take six points from these two matches, the final group game against Ethiopia could still be decisive for us,” Enza-Yamissi said despite the fact that the side are four points off the pace currently set by the Ethiopians after three rounds of action. Just one win from their first three matches has been a disappointing output for the Wild Beasts, who stunned Egypt in qualifying for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2013 and just missed out on reaching their first-ever major competition only because of a Burkina Faso goal six minutes into second-half injury-time of their final qualifier.
Enza-Yamissi has played a big role for the team in this process. After several years in the football wilderness following suspension, they were only allowed to play international matches again in 2010, and in their first competitive game – an AFCON qualifier in Morocco – they drew 0-0 with Enza-Yamissi captaining the side.
“It was a huge honor and my family was very happy and really very proud,” he said before explaining how he has tried to bring his experience to the untested group of players: “When I am with the Wild Beasts, I play the role of the big brother. I try to give tactical advice, thanks to my experience. I also try to keep an eye on the logistics and administrative stuff, which have improved.”
Experience and loyalty in France
Enza-Yamissi arrived in France as a ten-year-old, and he joined a football club after a teacher suggested to his father that the youngster should do so: “I started playing in Cenon, where the Da Rocha brothers Frederic and Bruno, as well as Kodjo Afanou also began. We had a very good team, we often played against FC Girondins de Bordeaux and finished in front of them two or three years in a row. At the age of 15 or so, I started to play for the Girondins.”
After apprenticing with Bordeaux, he joined La Roche sur Yon in the third division, then signed for Ales, where he played with Franck Ribery and former professional Thierry de Neef. After spending a season with Ales, he signed for Nimes. “The coach at the time, Didier Olle-Nicolle, tested 50 players and signed just two," he said. "I was one of them."
When he was offered an opportunity to play first division football in 2005 for Troyes, he jumped at the chance. “My intent was to get more exposure, and I also knew the coach,” he said.
Enza-Yamissi is somewhat of an enigma in today's fast-changing football world, in that he has remained with Troyes since then, even though he had offers to join other clubs. “I did not want to create difficulties, and I respected my contracts. Troyes have also improved my conditions whenever I received an offer, so they knew what it took for me to stay. I am grateful to the club that has given me the opportunity to play in Ligue 1.”
A loyal club man, Enza-Yamissi decided to stay with Troyes when they were relegated to the second and later to the third division, and they have now won promotion back to Ligue 1. “I wanted to help the club get back. I know where I come from. In addition, it is a matter of pride to be the player who has been longest with the club. I can leave a mark in history and that is not something which should be neglected.”
Although he has been living in France for most of his life, he is concerned about the uncertainty surrounding his birth-country, which went through a coup in March and has suffered from violence ever since. “I have some family in Bangui and people there are having a really hard time,” he said. “The situation is not clear, the situation is very confused, but I wish peace will soon be restored in my country.”