They may be old, but they are not forgotten. They may not be vibrant anymore, but they are capable, moreover, if they are not “THE LEGENDS” who else would be? Roger Milla (the Cameroonian indomitable lion) is our man for this week.
Born on the 20th of May 1952, Roger Milla is a retired Cameroonian footballer who played as a striker. A veteran blessed with enduring burst of pace and an unerring eye for goal, Milla took Cameroon into uncharted territory for an African team as they reached the quarter-finals of the 1990 FIFA world cup in Italy. A forward without a superlative goal-scoring record but blessed with intelligence. Even while using him on FIFA 13, these abilities made him one of my favourite starters.
His scoring record for both club and country is admirable without being breathtaking. Nonetheless, he is revered by Cameroonians to this day, and admired still as one of African’s finest ever striker. He has been recognised as a pioneer of many unconventional and imaginative goal celebrations notably his dance around the corner flag. According to FIFA, he changed his name from “Miller” to “Milla” to sound more African.
The Jiggy Man
The world cup was where the legend we know now came into limelight. At 38, an age at which most forwards have retired, he was the star of the Cameroonian team that made so much impact in the 1990 world cup in Italy. In Italy, nobody really gave them a chance to succeed. They were barely known outside Africa. Saying they were the ‘dark horses’ of their group was an understatement. With Argentina, Russia (Soviet Union) and Romania in their group, they were ranked serious outsiders. The world stood still when a determined Cameroonian side defeated defending champions Argentina, even Maradona could not break down the defence. Argentina defeated, Diego Maradona left gnashing his teeth, the Cameroonians went on to defeat Romania. With the game still deadlocked, Roger Milla came in as a 59 minute substitute for Emmanuel Mabong and upon 17 minutes of his introduction, Roger Milla scored 2 goals in the space of 10 minutes. A new star had arrived onto the International scene. He then came off the bench in the round of 16 match against Colombia scoring two goals in the process and qualifying them for the quarter-final match against England.
While all this is worthy of recognition and praise, what makes his achievements more remarkable is that when all this transpired, he was 38 years old. And his African Player of the Year award, surprisingly came some 14 years back.
Having retired from international play in 1987, Milla was the marquee player in a Cameroon side that had competed in the 1982 World Cup in Spain but was eliminated in the group stage. He was a dedicated servant of the Indomitable Lions but hung his boots at 35 years of age.
When Cameroon qualified for Italy in 1990, Milla, at age 38 and amid much controversy, was included in the squad at the insistence of then Cameroon president, Paul Biya. Milla went on to be the named the African Footballer of the Century.
His performance can only be attributed to passion and desire. The strength and perseverance to defy old age does not come easily or frequently. If it did, there would be more players dominating the game on the world stage in their late 30’s and even beyond. But as long as I have been following football, only one man has ever done this, and his name is Roger Milla.
Why, he didn’t blossom when he was much younger, I don’t know, but what i know is that he truly is ‘The Ageless Legend’.