An Indomitable Lion
Patrick Mboma led the line for Cameroon in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament at Sydney 2000, making a decisive contribution to their historic gold medal win.
A champion of Africa
Cameroon went to Sydney 2000 as reigning African champions. Spearheaded by their star striker Patrick Mboma, the Indomitable Lions stormed to the final of that year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where they beat hosts Nigeria 4-3 on penalties in Lagos after a 2-2 draw in normal time. It was their third continental title, following triumphs in 1984 and 1988, with Mboma ending the tournament with four goals, including one in the final. Travelling to the Olympic Games as outsiders, the Cameroonians began their Group C campaign by downing Kuwait 3-2, with the irrepressible Mboma scoring a 76th-minute winner. He scored again in the next game, , putting his side ahead after 16 minutes in a 1-1 draw with the USA. Another draw by the same scoreline against Czech Republic was enough to book a quarter-final date against Brazil in Brisbane.
More Mboma magic
Mboma gave his side the lead against the Brazilians with a little over a quarter of an hour gone, and though Ronaldinho grabbed a late equaliser to take the tie into extra-time, the Cameroonians hit back to record a shock 2-1 win. In the semi-final against Chile, the Indomitable Lions trailed 1-0 with six minutes remaining when the talismanic striker equalised. He then won a penalty in the dying seconds, with Lauren stepping up to convert the spot-kick and send Cameroon through to the final against Spain, which took in Sydney on 30 September place in front of an Olympic-record crowd of over 104,000. After finding themselves 2-0 down at half-time, the Africans got back into the game eight minutes into the second half when an Mboma shot deflected off Spanish defender Ivan Amaya’s face and into the back of the net. Five minutes later the underdogs were level, as the tireless Mboma supplied the cross for Samuel Eto’o to slot home. After extra-time had ended goalless, Cameroon held their nerve to win the shootout 5-3, and with it the gold medal. Mboma was later named African Footballer of the Year.
An unforgettable moment
“What can you say about that unique moment when the national anthem sounds, you’ve got your gold medal and the flag’s being raised skywards?” Mboma later said. “It’s impossible to feel any more respect for the institution than at a moment like that and it’s impossible for the winner to feel any more proud. It’s very hard to put into words. As far as I’m concerned, nothing will ever erase those unique moments from my mind.”
A globetrotting goalscorer
Born in Douala, Cameroon, Mboma was two when he moved to France. He grew up in the Paris region and made his professional debut for Paris Saint-Germain, where he stayed until 1997. He went on to play for Cagliari and Parma in Italy, English club Sunderland and Japanese sides Gamba Osaka and Tokyo Verdy, among others, before retiring in 2005. He led the line for his country between 1995 and 2004, making 57 appearances and scoring 33 goals. In 2002 he helped Cameroon win another Africa Cup of Nations, and at the next edition in Tunisia two years later - his last international tournament - he finished joint-top scorer with four goals. He will always best be remembered, however, for his gilt-edged performances at Sydney 2000, when he inspired Cameroon to Olympic glory.