- Cameroon have qualified for their second FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
- Coach Stephane Ndzana has brought his influence to bear on the side
- Ndzana discusses his approach to the job
“It’s the talent of these players that draws me to them,” said Cameroon’s U-17 women’s coach Stephane Ndzana, setting the tone straightaway. A pragmatist who firmly believes in authority and discipline, Ndzana took charge of Les Lionnes (‘The Lionesses’) following their early exit from their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup debut in Jordan in 2016, when they lost their three group matches. “I’m not here to mess around,” he said on that occasion, making his intentions clear from the outset. “We’ve come together to get results.”
Despite his lack of experience in the women’s game, Ndzana made some big calls and revived the team’s fortunes almost immediately, with his coaching principles being reflected by improved performances on the pitch. Nigeria found that out for themselves in the qualifiers for Uruguay 2018, when Cameroon edged to an away-goals win to deny them a place in the world finals for the very first time.
“I came in with my approach and I haven’t found it difficult to adjust to women’s football,” said Ndzana, who is hoping his obsession with results will pay dividends in Uruguay in November, when Cameroon will make their second appearance at the U-17 women’s world finals. “I try to get the same principles across and organise my coaching sessions in the same way. As far as I’m concerned, qualifying for the finals is only the first step.”
“I didn’t follow the team before I took over,” he acknowledged. “The coaching staff has remained virtually the same and I’ve been working with the team that was in Jordan two years ago. All I’ve done is make my mark.” Seven of the 11 players who started the return match against Nigeria were also present at the U-17 team’s major international debut two years ago. “My biggest strength is putting the best players in the best position,” added the coach, explaining how he has shaped the side.
Some of Ndzana’s positional changes came as a shock to the fans and the players themselves, not least Alice Flora Kameni. “She was scoring lots of goals as a forward but I took her to one side and said that her best position was on the wing,” he explained. “She didn’t understand my decision and she wasn’t alone in that but I felt it was a risk I had to take. Making decisions is the biggest responsibility I have.”
Those decisions have proven to be right, as Kameni can vouch for, while the rest of the Lionesses have also reason to be grateful to their coach. With Ndzana calling the shots, they can return to the World Cup stage with every confidence of success.