Cameroon is one of the most blessed countries in Africa that has produced some of the best goal keepers on the African continent. By this we can readily think of goal keepers like the greatest Thomas N’Kono, Joseph-Antoine Bell, Jacques Songo’o, Alioum Boukar, Souleymanou Hamidou etc.
Like many other aspects of Cameroonian Football, many observers are seeing this good goal keeping trend fly away. Cameroon seems to be getting satisfied each day with goal keepers such as Charles Itandje whom many see as one of the worst Cameroonian Goal keepers for a long while. When talking about goal keeper Itandje, many would point out to his performance during the World Cup 2014 Playoffs second leg on Sunday 17 November, 2013 in Yaoundé (Capital of Cameroon) in which he was outstanding. Or some of his performances in the past with Liverpool FC etc, but supporters of Charles Itandje hardly find any evidence of consistency. A good player or goal keeper has to be good at least ‘most’ of the times, not a few times or some of the times. This is what forms the line between a great goal keepers (the likes of Thomas N’Kono and Bell Joseph); good Goalkeepers (the likes of Jacques Songo’o, Alioum Boukar etc) and very average or bad goal keepers like Charles Itandje.
It is always controversial when analyzing football performances of any player because people always have widely different opinions and contradictory analysis. Of course the reason is simple. People’s observations are different for a wide range of reasons. But there is always a measuring rod in football. When the majority and most of the experts and the press say and think that you are good, it is usually the case. In the same light, when the majority thinks you suck, then you surely do suck.
During the Cameroon-Croatia match on June 18th, 2014, even a Dutch commentator could not understand what the goal keeper of Cameroon was doing. His criticism does not come from the fact that he concedes goals but from how he positions himself, does not rush out to save balls; how he awkwardly positions himself even when he rushes out occasionally and the almost complete lack of charisma compared to the Cameroonian goal keepers many have known before.
Italian Goal Keeper Gianluigi Buffon’s Hero is Thomas N’Kono
There is no way we are going to compare Charles Itandje with the likes of Thomas N’Kono but it is absolutely necessary for Cameroonians to know that one of the greatest Goal Keepers in the world, the legendary Gianluigi Buffon of Italy was inspired by Cameroon’s Thomas N’Kono.
Talking to James Horncastle of the Guardian Online Newspaper, Goalkeeper Buffon revealed that by 12 years of age he was playing as midfielder for Perticata, a satellite club of Internazionale in his home town of Carrara. His role models were Marco Tardelli and Nicola Berti, players who got forward and scored regularly. Because as he explains…“every kid thinks about scoring rather than not conceding,”.
But the Italian revealed that on following Cameroon during their performance in 1990 World Cup hosted by Italy, he began to think differently. “After Italy, they (Cameroon) were the team I supported at the World Cup. They were my football heroes.”
One player in particular captured his imagination. It was the legendary goalkeeper Thomas N’Kono, after whom Buffon would later name his first child Louis Thomas. He observed how Nkono would dash off his line in that grey and yellow striped shirt and black trousers to punch the ball 30 or 40 yards. That excited him a lot.
He revealed to the Guardian Newspaper Online that although his father had already been pushing him to try playing as a goal keeper, Buffon claims it was “all a little by chance”. Had it not been for “the desire to emulate N’Kono” he wouldn’t have easily become a Goal keeper and then finally becoming this great himself. What better evidence of Buffon’s admiration of his legend Thomas N’Kono than naming his son Louis Thomas after N’Kono.
That was when Cameroon had goal keepers the world could admire and emulate. Today there is the sense of “if you don’t have what you like, like what you have”. Cameroonians are left with the likes of Charles Itandje for a country that has produced great keepers like Thomas N’Kono, Joseph-Antoine Bell etc. No doubt, no one would blame critics who think Itandje is the worst Cameroonian Goal keeper till date.