Thousands of miles from home, a group of students from Cameroon studying at Berlin’s technical university have joined forces to bring some African flair to the institution’s amateur soccer league.
Color and enthusiasm are the trademarks of Cameroon's soccer fans.
Germany’s highly paid professional soccer stars may have to wait a couple of years for the possibility of a return clash with Cameroon at the World Cup in 2006 but for those lesser known stars of the amateur game in Germany, there are Lions prowling the parks of Berlin right now and rumor has it that they are as indomitable as their national idols.
Called "Cameroon Power", this 30-strong student team at Berlin’s Technical University drawn from engineering, information technology and business management courses is made up almost exclusively of players from the African nation. The only exception is goalkeeper Magnus, a Berliner born and bred.
Cameroon flair in the Berlin league
Cameroon showed their mettle in the 2002 World Cup.
It’s a world away from the warm, dusty pitches of their home country where the talent, invention and chaotic beauty of the Cameroon style of soccer is honed. Nevertheless, this Cameroon side has brought the hallmarks of such an invigorating approach to the game to Berlin and the rough and tumble of the engineering university league.
Most of the time, they have to fit in soccer matches in-between studying and exams. Regardless of the strains of education, it is a common love for the game which has brought these students from the African continent together at the football ground in the Schöneberg district in central Berlin on this freezing winter’s morning.
Successful combination of styles
Cameroon Power plays together with 60 other student teams in the university league and have already won the trophy for the best team twice. Coach Bertrand Njoume, who founded Cameroon Power together with some friends, puts the team’s success down to a mixture of their home-grown natural talent and the influence of their adopted home as the game gets under way.
"Soccer players from Cameroon have a very good technique because they start very early," Njoume said. "At home in Cameroon we don’t have any other opportunity to play anything else, so we start it as a game. Soccer to us is first a game and then it becomes a sport."
Cameroon coach Winfried Schäfer.
To the other 60 teams in the league, the name of the Cameroon team is as well known in the university as the national team is in world soccer.
It is not just the maverick attitude and cavalier flair of the professional Lions under the tutelage of German coach Winfried Schäfer (picture) that has cemented the Africans in the German mentality. The university team is also proving to be a strong force while displaying the same style of play as their national heroes.
African footwork, European thinking
German captain Oliver Kahn and Cameroon's captain Rigobert Song compare cultural differences.
Njoume hollers at his players to drop deep and defend as the opposition surges forward. "We have learned a lot from the Germans," Njoume added. "When I was a coach, I had the opportunity to watch them a lot, how they play. That helped us to organize us better, gave us some tactical discipline." Njoume concluded, "The way we play now is a mixture between the art of Cameroon soccer and well, the German discipline."
As the first half comes to an end, the Cameroon team are behind 0-1. The second half is a different story. Striker Aziz scores four times to give the Africans a 4-1 victory. Afterwards, as the praise rings out in the icy air, the tall forward gives his own thoughts on the differences between soccer in Cameroon and Germany.
"The Germans play in a very disciplined way to score a goal. We want to it a little bit more attractive, we want to do more," Aziz said. "Soccer to us has to look good. And then we think of the goal."
A slice of home
But it’s not just the actual game that keeps Cameroon Power going, but also the emotional and frenzied cheering that the team gets from its supporters. With 30 players on the team, the 29 that don’t play stand on the sidelines and root for their team.
One of them is Hervé Moyou, team coordinator. He explained that Cameroon Power doesn’t just offer one and a half hours of exercise and camaraderie, but it also offers a slice of home."It’s easier to be away from home if you stick together with others in the same situation. Others who look the same and are the same in a certain way," Moyou told DW-RADIO. "We want to create a virtual home, so that we don’t miss our real home so much."
Tough challenge for Cameroon Power
Cameroon Power is now gearing up for the Cameroon Challenge Cup in spring next year. Cameroon teams from all over Germany will converge on the capital to compete for the cup, won last by the team from Bayreuth.
Hervé Moyou said the team will try its best to make sure the trophy stays in Berlin next year, but warned it won’t be easy.
Cameroon won the African Nations Cup in 2002.
"The best players will win the cup. Sounds simple. But for us to be those players, there is a lot of hard work ahead of us."
The message to Moyou's players is clear: they face a few more icy German mornings before cup glory is assured.