No swan song yet for the General
By the end of the qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup finals in Germany, Cameroon's captain Rigobert Song should have reached the milestone of 100 caps.
Given that a total of 106 players are already members of the FIFA Century Club, this is no longer as uncommon as a decade ago, but it will mark a new achievement for African football.
To date there have been only six African footballers who have passed the 100-cap total and all hail from north Africa countries.
Hossam Hassan of Egypt leads a list of four other compatriots while Noureddine Naybet of Morocco has now won 107 caps. But if Song reaches the landmark, as is expected, he will become the first player from sub-Saharan Africa to join the exclusive club.
Last month's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Sudan in Yaoundé marked the 94th appearance for Song in the national team and, with four matches left to go in the qualifiers plus a handful of dates for friendly internationals in between, the Galatasaray player is on course to make history.
The tenacious defender, whose club career has seen him play in several of the world's top leagues, made his debut as a 17-year-old for the Indomitable Lions in 1993 and has played at the last three World Cup finals for his country.
His aggressive style and strong leadership qualities have marked him out as one of the continent's most charismatic players over the decades. That he is known as "The General" by his Cameroon team mates is no coincidence.
"I love Cameroon and I love being a symbol for the country. It is a great honour. It is for that reason I have always honoured call-ups to play for the team and why I have been able to captain a side like the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon," says the 28-year-old.
"I'm always content to be with the national team. It has a really great ambiance and we form one big, happy family."
Born in Nkengilock, Song played at Red Star Bangou and then Tonnerre Yaoundé before moving to Metz in France after the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals in the USA.
His club career has also taken him to Salernitana in Italy, Liverpool and West Ham in England, FC Cologne in Germany, back to France with Lens and now at Galatasaray. His honours include captaining Cameroon to two African Nations Cup titles and playing in the UEFA Champions League with Lens.
Africa's failure to deliver more players to the FIFA Century Club often arose from a scarcity of fixtures. Two decades ago, few teams played matches outside of those which served as qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup, the Nations Cup or the Olympic Games, which prior to 1992 were played at full international level in Africa and Asia.
The qualifiers were also knockout affairs, meaning that many countries played just two matches before being eliminated and then had to wait an age before returning to action. When African footballers started playing at professional clubs in Europe, they were infrequently back home for national team duty. Up until 1988, the Nations Cup finals did not allow European-based footballers to feature at the tournament.
The last African to reach the FIFA Century Club was Egyptian pocket dynamo Ahmed Hassan, who achieved his ton in the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Benin in Cotonou last July. He marked the milestone with a goal in the 3-3 draw. Naybet became the first African from outside Egypt to join the exclusive group during the 2004 Nations Cup finals in Tunisia.
Africa's most capped international is striker Hossam Hassan, who has 163 caps, the last of which was won at the age of 38 against Gabon last year. For a while, he was the world's most capped international, receiving a special armband from FIFA president Sepp Blatter when he won his 151st cap in Cairo, eclipsing Lothar Matthaus of Germany's old record of 150. Mexico's Claudio Suárez currently lays claim to the record with 172 caps while the other African centurions are Ibrahim Hassan, Hani Ramzy and Nader El Sayed, all of Egypt.