- Alain Djeumfa was Cameroon's fitness coach at Canada 2015
- His players have nicknamed him 'Mean dog'
- Follow all the latest on our Live Blog: #ENGCMR
By Cynthia Nzetia with Cameroon
When asked to describe his relationship with his players, Cameroon coach Alain Djeumfa does not hesitate even for a moment. "First and foremost, I'm a big brother to some of them, and for the younger ones I'm a father," he explains. "The mental approach is the biggest obvious difference between coaching a men's team and a women's team. My girls need to be listened to, and I'm always willing to listen. They know that and make the most of it."
Djeumfa knows his players well. After all, he has been involved in each of Cameroon's most eye-catching successes, firstly as fitness coach at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™, where the Indomitable Lionesses reached the last 16 on their maiden appearance. The following year, he was again involved as Cameroon finished runners-up to Nigeria at the CAF Africa Women's Cup of Nations on home soil.
Influential behind the scenes, he is also the confidant of former Cameroon boss Enow Ngachu, the driving force behind the growth of women's football in the country. Djeumfa took the reins from Joseph Ndoko after his predecessor had secured a spot at France 2019 with a third-place finish at the 2018 Africa Women's Cup of Nations, but it is Ngachu with whom he is closest. "I grew up with Enow and we both went to the National Sports Institute in Cameroon," he says. "After that, we both continued our studies in Germany. He's a friend I can count on."
Like Ngachu, Djeumfa has now steered Cameroon to a World Cup knockout stage. "I learned a huge amount from my experience as part of the staff in 2015," he adds, with his team now gearing up to tackle England. "Without that, I don't think I would be so relaxed about certain things that can happen at a World Cup. This competition does not only unfold on the pitch – it takes place off it too, and my main responsibility is to protect my squad."
For the man in charge, protecting his players does not mean simply indulging them and making their life easy, however. Instead, he admits to taking a hard line. "I know my players call me 'Mean dog' because it's true that I'm strict with them. But above all I'm strict with myself. We're now through to the round of 16 against England, a nation firmly established in the elite of world football and an opponent whose strengths need no introduction. My role is to make sure the girls stay focused before the game and to prepare them in the best way possible for the challenge, because it won't be easy. That's why I don't let anyone ease off."
With the stakes so high, he is not about to change his methods now. "We're entering a very important phase in this competition," he says. "Often these knockout games come down to small details." If Cameroon manage to negotiate those, he and his charges could soon find themselves in the quarter-finals.
Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.