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Culture

Germany's Indomitable Lion

With the African Nations Cup already under his belt, Winfried Schäfer takes Cameroon's Indomitable Lions onto the world stage with sky high optimism and a chance to confront former colleagues.

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Winfried Schäfer ponders his tactics before the start of the World Cup

When the German national squad landed at their World Cup base in preparation for the coming tournament, one fellow countryman was already plotting their downfall.

The Cameroon coach is no stranger to the technical merits and Teutonic drive of the fiercely competitive Germans. He is, after all, an old hand both on and off the pitch when it comes to the idiosyncrasies of his compatriots.

Winfried Schäfer played his entire career in the German Bundesliga, appearing in 403 league matches in Germany’s top flight in a career that lasted over twenty years. He won the UEFA Cup in 1979 with Borussia Moenchengladbach before retiring in 1985 to ply his trade as a coach while cultivating a reputation as a fiery personality.

He coached Karlsruhe for 12 years before taking the reins at VfB Stuttgart for a half season. Now he finds himself in charge of one of Africa's most chaotically exciting sides with a chance to dent his home country's championship winning hopes in the first phase of this year's World Cup.

It was perhaps no surprise when at December's World Cup draw, football fate decreed that Schäfer must prepare his new side to take on his home nation.

After negotiating Group E matches with the Republic of Ireland and Saudi Arabia, Cameroon head into what could be a crunch second round decider with three-time World Champions Germany.

No hesitation, "I'm now a lion"

Schäfer says he believes Germany will have qualified for the second round even before they meet the Lions in the last Group E game. By that time, both Germany and the Lions will have most likely qualified for the second round, Schäfer said.

Torwart Jens Lehmann und Rudi Völler, der Trainer der deutschen Nationalmannschaft

Jens Lehmann and Coach Rudi Völler face the Lions in Group E

"I think all will be over by then (the third game) and the game will not be a decisive one," Schäfer said.

"But if that is the case, then a German will have to eliminate Germany. And I will not hesitate for one moment because I'm now a Lion."

However, Schäfer added that he felt the Republic of Ireland were the dark horses of Group E and his team will have to be wary of them. "Anybody who underrates Ireland in that group will be a dead man," he said.

The winner of the group will go on to play the runner-up in Group B, which includes Spain, Slovenia, South Africa and Paraguay.

Into the Lion's Den

The 52-year-old is on his first coaching assignment out of Germany, His appointment to lead Cameroon to the World Cup finals broke the central African country's long-standing tradition of hiring coaches from France or eastern Europe.

His first match in charge was a 0-0 draw in a friendly match against Poland in November and he followed up with away wins over Burkina Faso and Tunisia.

He has organized training camps for the team in Germany, where it has played against club opposition and worked hard on adding discipline to its undoubted talent.

Schäfer has only been at the helm of Cameroon's Indomitable Lions since September last year, becoming their fourth coach inside a year, but he has already made his mark.

Kameruns Nationalmannschaft beim Afrika-Cup 2002

Cameroon hope to swap African Cup for World Cup glory this June.

Cameroon's excellent World Cup qualifying campaign has been sweetened by this year's African Nations Cup triumph over Senegal, and the Cameroon fans appear convinced that they have found a man to lead them. Schäfer's record with the Lions to date is exemplary, losing only one thing so far – his temper.

A foreigner with the necessary bite

Schäfer and goalkeeping assistant Thomas Nkono were banned from the African Nations Cup final following a scuffle with riot police in the competition's semi-final. He was given a one-match ban barring him from the dug-out and dressing room for the final against Senegal while goalkeeping coach Nkono was given a one-year ban.

The Confederation of African Football later relented and allowed Schäfer to sit on his team's bench for the final after winning an appeal against a one-match suspension. The ban on the German-born coach was downgraded to a suspended sentence.

Schäfer is one of four coaches at this year's tournament drawn against their own national team. He is the third German coach for the African nation after Peter Schnittger (1970-1972) and Karl Heinz Weigang, coach of the Cameroon junior team in the 80's.

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