YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
Cameroon's national football team is trying to rebuild as they head to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Gabon.
Thousands of fans of the Indomitable Lions cheered their team Tuesday in an international friendly between Cameroon and the Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe.
The Lions came from behind to secure a one-all tie after Zimbabwe's second goal was disallowed.
But fans were not impressed with the team, which is missing seven regulars who declined invitations to join Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Don't expect too much from team
Supporter Timothe Ndoba says he is prepared to be disappointed.
Ndoba says the present national team of Cameroon does not make anyone dream of success. He says when the main players refused to join, he decided to watch every training session of the new players and realizes Cameroonians should not expect too much. He says when watching other big African football nations like Algeria, Senegal or Ivory Coast you can see only luck or surprises will allow Cameroon to qualify for the tournament's second round.
Another supporter, 24-year old Lewoh Simon says most of Cameroon's players are inexperienced.
“I am only seeing new, new players that I have never even heard about, so I do not know how far they will go,” Simon said. “There are players like Joel Martip, Tchouppo Mouting. Did you (the coach) care to ask them why they refused to come?”
Martip and Mouting are among the seven regulars who decided to skip the tournament. In all, 14 of the 23 players who will represent Cameroon in the tournament are new faces.
Top players stay in Europe
National team coach Hugo Broos says the players refused because they are involved with championships on their European teams and could not find one month to sacrifice in Gabon.
But media outlets have criticized the 64-year old Belgian's handling of the team. He is accusing of sparking conflicts with his regulars by using them as reserves during matches.
Sports analyst and former Lions member Michel Kaham says the players' refusal to show up has made fans lose confidence in the team.
Kaham says the public has the right to doubt because it is not the best team to represent them. He says although people are skeptical, there are good players on the team, who unfortunately are not as good as those who refused to play. He says it is an opportunity for those who were called to give their best and make the skeptical public trust them.
Coach asks for respect
Despite the missing players, Broos thinks his team can reach at least the quarterfinal stage of AFCON 2017.
Broos says he is asking supporters to respect his choice of players, even if they hate him. He says he had no option after seven of his players refused to come, categorically stating that they prefer to remain with the European clubs. He says he decided not to insist or to force them to come because they would not play for the love and passion of the game and if it was not their wish to come.
Cameroon, who has won four Africa Cup of Nations titles, will be playing in Group A in Libreville alongside host Gabon, Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau.