Monday, August 17, 2015

Meeting Roger Milla



I was working on a night flight and I ran into the father of African football, Roger Milla, one of the super stars of the 1990 World Cup. His success story is very captivating. He first retired from international football in 1987 with some success, after winning the 1976 African footballer of the year award and gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon (scoring in both finals). In 1987, he moved to the French owned island of Reunion to play there after a fairly succesful club career in France. In 1990, he received a phone call from the president, Paul Biya who pleaded with him to come out of retirement and join the national team. He travelled with the Indomitable Lions to Italy and scored four goals at the 1990 World Cup, at the old age of 38 (the age where most strikers have retired) which helped Cameroon qualify for the Quarter finals, the first African team to achieve the feat. Cameroon was eliminated controversially by England, after two dubious penalties. His 1990 World Cup perfomance earned him global superstardom and the African footballer of the year award that year. He was also a pioneer for unconventional goal celebrations for his iconic hip shaking at the corner flank after scoring each goal. Cameroon's exploits influenced FIFA to increase the African participation at the World Cup from three to five countries. Four years later, Milla was back at the World Cup in USA and made history by scoring another goal at the super veteran age of 42, becoming the oldest player to score at the FIFA World Cup, a record which I don’t think will ever be beaten. He was also the highest African scorer at the World Cup, a record which was later broken in 2014 by Ghanaian striker, Asamoah Gyan.