By Manyo Bernard Besong
kick442.com – Cameroon, Editorialist
Alexandre Dimitry Bilong Song affectionately referred to as Alex Song by Cameroon football fans became a vital player for the Cameroon National Team the Indomitable Lions during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. Before the January- February African Soccer showpiece, the boy who grew up in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital had made just one appearance for the senior male national team. But 2008 was his year of breakthrough. Song of Arsenal then became a household name in Cameroon football because of his exploits during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Ghana. Indomitable Lions Coach Otto Pfister has travelled to the tournament with a host of defensive midfielders including Landry Nguemo, Jean II Makoun, Staphane Mbia Etoundi etc and this trio were expected to play the key roles for the offensive and defensive midfield. But all grapes turned sour for the German gaffer when Cameroon started struggling in the first group game against Egypt on the 22nd of January 2008 at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
Just before the break the veteran captain Rigobert Song Bahanag uncle to Alex indicated that there should be a substitution in the defensive midfield compartment with Landry Nguemo and Jean II Makoun having failed to contain the Egyptian onslaught orchestrated by Mohammed Zidane, Mohammed Aboutrika and the Pharoahs captain Ahmed Hasan. Alexandre Song who had returned to Arsenal from a season loan at Charlton athletic was summoned to shield the defensive quartet of Timothe Atouba, Andre Stephane Bikey, Rigobert Song and Geremi Sorel Njitap Fotso.
A multipurpose player, Alex Song who was able to play as a central midfielder, in a holding role, or even as a centre-back used his energy, physicality, and ability to cover ground quickly to make an instant impact.
He did not only help to contain the Egyptians but enabled Cameroon reduce the deficit with the game eventually ending 4-2 in favour of the defending Champions. His instant influence after coming on against Egypt in the first group game of the competition cemented his place in the defensive midfield of the team.
Alex Song eventually featured as a regular in the remaining group C games against Sudan and Zambia which the Indomitable Lions went on to win and book their place in the quarter-final as group runners up.
The quarter-final of the competition pitted the indomitable Lions of Cameroon against the Group D winners Tunisian. With stars like Ben Saada, El Bekri, and the veritable goal poacher Yacine Chikhaoui, the Cartage Eagles of Tunisia were the bookmaker’s favourites.
Alex Song though suffering from injury was fielded and he produced a man of the match display disrupting most of the Tunisian constructive play from the midfield as Cameroon defeated their North African rivals in extra time 3-2 in Tamale and book their place to face tournament hosts Ghana in the last four of the competition.
Song delivered a pin point assist from 20 yards for Stephane Mbia to open scores for Cameroon. His partnership with Stephane Mbia became a crucial aspect of the indomitable Lions progress in the competition as Mbia scored the winning goal in extra time to take Cameroon through to the last four.
In the semi-final Alex Song featured in the midfield and played his part in helping Cameroon overcome the hosts Ghana 1-0. He helped Cameroon employ a water tight midfield to outsmart Anthony Annan, Micheal Essien, Sulley Ali Muntari and co. and help Cameroon reach the finals against Egypt.
Egypt defeated Cameroon 1-0 to win their 6th title. After the Nations Cup he became one of the most dedicated players of the team. When the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign was faltering, it was Alex Song then a regular with English Premier League Side Arsenal who rallied alongside his uncle Rigobert and Samuel Eto’o to help the Indomitable Lions qualify for the competition, the first held on African soil.
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