BBC | Former Cameroon captain Stephane Mbia has called on national team legend Samuel Eto’o to act as peacemaker to help persuade goalkeeper Andre Onana to come out of international retirement.
Mbia says his country “needs” Onana, describing him as their best player.
Onana, 27, quit international football after falling out with head coach Rigobert Song during the Qatar World Cup last year, releasing a statement shortly afterwards that confirmed his “story with the Cameroonian national team has come to an end.”
“Cameroon remains eternal, as does my love for the national team and for our people, who have always supported us no matter how difficult the moment was,” the statement went on to say.
But there have been indications he could be willing to end his exile and Mbia, who played at two World Cups and two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) for his country, has urged Eto’o, now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot), to step in.
“Onana is a very good guy, I know him, and such things can happen in football,” he told BBC Sport Africa.
“We know there are problems, but let’s put them aside with president Eto’o because it was a misunderstanding.
“Onana is a very good player and he should try and talk to him. We need him and Cameroon needs him.”
Mbia’s desire to see Onana return was increased by the Indomitable Lions’ recent poor performances in qualifying for next year’s Afcon in Ivory Coast, which included a 2-1 defeat away to Namibia.
“It was a lot of mistakes,” said Mbia, who was part of the Cameroon side that lost to Egypt in the 2008 Afcon final in Ghana.
“We have to try and work and do the same things we did in the last couple of years.”
A letter from the ministry
Onana is in good form as Inter Milan’s number one goalkeeper. He played in both legs as Inter beat Benfica to reach the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League and has kept six clean sheets in 10 matches in the competition.
And his performances even seem to have captured the attention of Cameroon’s minister of sport and physical education, Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, who has written to Inter president Steven Zhang.
In the letter, Kombi also describes the World Cup involving row between Onana as a “misunderstanding with technical staff.”
“We ask you to allow this talented goalkeeper to satisfy his desire to keep representing his native country,” the letter continues, “to inspire millions of his fellow countrymen by making him available for the Indomitable Lions.”
Le Ministre des Sports camerounais, le Pr Mouelle Kombi demande au Président de l'Inter Milan de mettre à disposition le gardien André Onana pour les prochains rassemblements des Lions Indomptables.
Le Ministre déclare que la retraite d'Andre Onana résulte d'un malentendu…. pic.twitter.com/0VNfAfCilt
— Griffe 2 F??T?? (@Griffe2Foot) April 20, 2023
Although it remains unclear exactly what role the Italian club has to play in any potential reconciliation between Onana and head coach Song, the letter strongly suggests moves are afoot to bring about peace.
Mbia is keen to see that happen.
“I don’t understand why he retired,” concluded the former midfielder who represented Cameroon 68 times.
“I think he’s going to come back and try to sort things out.”