Ondama another M’Pele
In the early evening of 3 February 2007, the heat in the Congolese capital Brazzaville was scorching. Yet could shivers will have run down the backs of the 50,000 spectators inside the Alphonse Massamba Stadium – and the hundreds of thousands huddled in front of their television and radio sets at home – when Francel Ibara opened the scoring in the 65th minute of the game, with what proved to be the winning goal for the home team in the final of the CAF African Youth Championship against Nigeria. The win was Congo’s first international triumph since 1972, when they won the African Nations Cup.
It also saw them qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada from 30 June to 22 July, where the central Africans have been drawn in Group A alongside Chile, Austria and the host nation. It is Congo’s third appearance in the finals of a FIFA competition, having previously taken part in the FIFA U-16 World Championship in China in 1985 and the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Italy in 1991.
The star of the Congo team is right-winger Fabrice Nguessi Ondama, who plays for Pointe Noire side La Mancha and looks set to move to a European club soon. Ondama, an admirer of Didier Drogba, has already made his debut at senior level and is aiming even higher. “I used to tell the older boys in my neighborhood that I wanted to be the best footballer in the Congo. That remains my objective,” he says. Congo’s under-20 coach, Frenchman Eddie Hudanski, believes Ondama will achieve his goal. “He has the potential for a great career because he has all the qualities required of a modern striker. He is a quick, intelligent, two-footed and clinical forward with an instinct for goal.” Could Ondama be the next M’Pele?