Cameroon's footballers took the Olympic gold medal with a penalty-kick shoot-out victory over Spain on Saturday to win the first-ever Olympic gold for their country at the culmination of a superb fortnight of Olympic football. The Africans could hardly have started off more abjectly in their attempt to emulate Nigeria as African kings of Olympic football.
A goal down after a mere 78 seconds, they had to survive a penalty-kick barely three minutes later and still went in 0-2 down at the break. To quick goals at the start of the second half took Spain by surprise and put Cameroon back on terms and when Spain lost two men to red cards, Cameroon sensed their moment of glory was at hand. But they could not overcome the stout Spanish resistance even after extra time, and the 104,000 fans were treated to the ultimate drama of a penalty shoot-out. One Spanish shot hit the bar while all five Cameroon attempts found the net and the crowd's favourites set off on a riotous indulgence of celebration.
Noble in defeat, Spain acknowledged Cameroon's tremendous athleticism and power - and their mental fortitude in recovering from an early setback. It was African football at its flamboyant best, as unpredictable as when the same team had beaten Brazil in the quarter-finals a week ago, that time playing themselves with only nine men.
The medal ceremony in the gigantic Stadium Australia on a brilliant sunny afternoon brought down the curtain on an Olympic Football Tournament to remember, as dramatic in its finale as the women's final two days previously. Australia had responded rapturously to the performances of the men's and women's teams on view and showed as never before that these Olympic Games were in a country where they belong, watched and enjoyed by inveterate sports-lovers who had helped set new standards for the world's premier sporting event.
"FIFA is leaving Australia with a wonderful warm feeling after all that has happened here," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who accompanied IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch at the football medal ceremony. "These Games have shown that football is very deeply integrated into the Olympic festival, and I am delighted that we have seen such splendid finals to round these Games off."
To recap: Cameroon won the men's gold, Spain the silver and Chile the bronze, while Norway took the women's gold, with the silver going to the United States and the bronze to Germany. Germany also won the women's Fair Play Award, while the men's Fair Play Award went to Brazil.