NATAL, June 13 – Cameroon coach Volker Finke on Thursday played down the effects of a ill-timed row over player bonuses that threatened to derail the ‘Indomitable Lions’ bid for redemption four years after an embarrassing exit from the 2010 World Cup.
Sitting in Group A with competition hosts Brazil, Mexico and Croatia, Cameroon are expected to have a tough time trying to tie down one of the top two places and a ticket to the last 16.
That objective suffered another blow when players, a week before their scheduled flight to Brazil, threatened not to board the plane if certain bonus demands were not met.
A deal was eventually struck, and a day ahead of opening their group campaign away to Mexico in Natal, Finke said he did not blame his players for lodging certain demands.
“For me, you have to respect some things. You can’t judge people who do not have the same conditions as other people,” said the German, who was brought on board a little over a year ago following 16 years with German over-achievers Freiburg.
“Here (in Africa) we have traditions, there are certain relationships with the (football) federation and the government. You have to respect certain ways.
“It’s not like in France or Germany. From my point of view, I see a team that is working very hard. For everything else, I say we have to step back and respect their ways.
“We have found a solution, and that is the most important thing.”
Four years after collecting zero points from three group games in South Africa, Cameroon are looking for redemption.
“We’re coming here with a feeling of revenge, that’s for sure,” said Marseille defender Nicolas N’Koulou, one of 13 players in the current squad to have suffered the ignominy of 2010’s premature exit.
“We totally failed in 2010, but things are different now. We’re a cohesive group and have a good mix of experience with some younger players.
“We’re like a family, we’re in good spirits and determined to give it everything to make the nation proud.”
N’Koulou, who plays at centre-back alongside Galatasaray’s Aurelien Chedjou, is one of several up and coming stars looking to make up for the disaster of South Africa.
However most eyes will be on Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o, the four-time African footballer of the year who, along with midfielder Enoh Eyong, was previously handed an eight-month ban by Cameroon football officials due to his role in a player revolt over bonuses.
Finke said he is glad Eto’o, as well as and several other players with injury concerns in recent weeks, including Sevilla midfielder Stephane M’Bia, are fully fit and available to play.
“I’m happy that Stephane Bia and Eto’o are back in the team — that’s very important for us,” added Finke.
“They give a lot to the team and they’re the kind of players that can make the difference.”
“Everyone knows him worldwide, he’s our leader, our captain,” said Eyong.
“He’s going to lead us into battle. We hope he will be on his best form, score some crucial goals for us and lead us to victory, starting with tomorrow.”