The Cameroon rugby league players have just returned home after one of the most courageous and arduous journeys of any international sporting side in recent times.
In a bid to keep travel costs to Nigeria to a minimum, they travelled to the recent MEA Championship by bus – an eight day return coach trip which involved attempted robbery, guns being pointed at them, unsanctioned payments being taken at unofficial check points and the team being arrested.
Thankfully, having played their two scheduled international games, all the historic debutante squad are now safely back home with their families.
Cameroon’s first game against Morocco was scheduled for Wednesday, 2nd October. The team set off from North Cameroon on the Friday before. After being stopped at fifteen check points, sleeping and eating on the bus and travelling for nearly four days, they arrived two hours before kick-off, changed into their kit, loosened up, and gave a colossal defensive display before narrowly losing 8-4. Three days later, they faced Ghana, going down 10-4.
They then set off, at one in the morning after celebrating with the other teams, on a return journey which again took four days. On the way home the they were arrested at a check point due to having no money to pay unexpected fees, and once during the night had to fend off potential muggers who tried to get onto the bus as they slept.
The entire Cameroon squad were hailed heroes by the other participating nations, and the event organisers.
Carol Manga, Cameroon general manager, travelled with the team.
“We had received support from our friends across the world,” he said, “but not enough to secure flights so we took a bus. Travelling this way is a struggle but it also had so many positive aspects as we forged a great bond. The players pushed themselves to see their dream come true and play international rugby league. I am so proud of all the team.”
RLEF general manager Chris Thair added: “This is a remarkable story which typifies the commitment towards rugby league in Africa and the Middle East. We would like to offer further support to those nations but cannot do so without support from businesses and the international community.”