Biya intervenes in Mboma row

Milla revealed Biya’s query on a radio programme. Cameroon legend Roger Milla has revealed that the country’s president has instructed him to look into the reasons behind striker Patrick Mboma’s exclusion from the 2004 Nations Cup squad. Milla, who is Cameroon’s football ambassador and works at the presidency, told listeners about Biya’s query during a radio phone-in programme which took place in Yaoundé.

« The president asked me to gather more information on the Mboma situation, » Milla said.

« I have informed the minister of youth and sports [Bidoung Mpkatt], manager Winfried Schafer and other team staff about this matter. »

Milla’s disclosure pleased several fans who had joined the debate to urge Schafer to recall Mboma to the Indomitable Lions.

It is not the first time that Cameroon’s president has directly intervened in national team selection matters.

Following public pressure, Biya put Milla into the 1990 World Cup team and subsequently ordered the inclusion of Milla, Paul Louis Mfede and Victor Ndip Akem in the 1994 squad.

Mboma had refused to play for Cameroon at last year’s Confederations Cup, accusing Schafer of being unable to make independent decisions regarding team selection matters.

But the rift between the two looked to have been settled when he played for the Lions in the Foe charity match on 11 November, as well as the subsequent friendly against Japan.

The decision to exclude Mboma from the Nations Cup team has been a source of great worry to fans in Cameroon, who feel it would be unwise to solely depend on the goalscoring form of Samuel Eto’o.

« Mboma is the only player for now who is sure to score goals, so he has a place in the team, » one fan said.

Several Cameroonians believe the former African Footballer of the Year was dropped because some officials, including the sport minister, believe he is indisciplined.

Mboma has been in the country since 2 January but has kept a low profile, refusing requests from the media for interviews on the controversy.

In a separate development, defender Pierre Wome - also dropped from the Nations Cup squad - disclosed in a newspaper interview that Schafer told him the minister had ordered his exclusion from the Tunisia squad.

Schafer reportedly advised Wome to meet Mkpatt to discuss the matter.

By Martin Etonge