Milla refuses to be pessimistic
Roger Milla, at 42 the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history during Cameroon’s 6-1 loss to Russia at USA’94 and a two-time African champion and African Footballer of the Year, symbolizes all that Cameroonian and indeed African football is and should be – resilient, inventive and dominant.
Seventeen years on from his exploits at the 1990 World Cup finals where he embarrassed Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita, the aura of Africa’s player of the 20th century remains undimmed.
Caught up with him after watching a league game between his old club Tonnerre – winners of the defunct African Cup Winners’ Cup in 1975 – and provincial side Federal. Fans continue to mob the legend who always has a kind word or smile for them.
? I am a simple man and I believe that one should not be too arrogant, no matter what one has achieved,” he said several years ago. But the current state of Cameroonian football – in which he plays a very minor role – gives him little cause for joy. “Not going to the last World Cup was a very painful and sad moment for me,” Milla said. “We have many problems in Cameroonian football and we have to make an effort to solve them. We cannot afford to miss out on the 2010 World Cup finals and we will certainly learn from the costly mistakes that cost us not going to Germany.”
Although Milla’s positive contribution to his country’s international image has earned him a roving ambassadorship, with the attendant perks and responsibilities, he says his involvement in Cameroon’s national team football affairs is extremely limited. “My position is an all-encompassing one and does not really concern football and sporting matters. It would have been good to be more involved in football but this is the situation.”
Dismayed about the diminishing fortunes of his old club Tonnerre, Milla says his influence over such matters is no more than that of concerned but powerless fan. “The situation is not good but I do not have the ability to do anything because I have no authority over what is happening there.”
Surprisingly, Milla refuses to be pessimistic about his country’s future in a game that has brought him fame and worldwide respect: “Cameroon has so many talented players and all we must do is make the most of our abilities. If we do this, we will easily forget the pain of the recent past.”