Cameroon completed one of the great underdog stories in the history of international soccer when the Indomitable Lions beat Egypt, 2-1, to win the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
final, the Lions' Belgian coach, Hugo Broos
, started players from clubs in nine different nations. Most of them are no-name players as none plays in Europe's big four leagues.
Liverpool’s Joel Matip
and West Brom’s Allan Nyom
were among seven players who refused to accept call-ups, forcing Broos to go with backups at many positions.
Two Cameroonian champions have ties to North American teams: starting left back Ambroise Oyongo
plays for MLS's Montreal Impact and tournament MVP Christian Bassogog
playing in the USL for the Wilmington Hammerheads two years ago.
Oyongo and Bassogog both came to North America via Rainbow FC, not a football club per se but an agency that places
players on clubs abroad.
Rainbow FC has been importing players to MLS and USL clubs for the last four seasons, the most recent being 18-year-old Hassan Ndam
, who signed with the
New York Red Bulls via Montverde Academy, the Florida school.
When the Hammerheads, then playing in the USL, signed Bassogog and fellow Cameroonian midfielder Brian Anunga
it followed a scouting trip to Cameroon by Hammerheads general manager Jason Arnold
Arnold chronicled the
for the Hammerheads' Web site, describing it as something out of the television show "Lost" with the playing field where tryouts were held being at a complex owned by a local power company
below the jungle line two hours by car (on a good day) outside Douala.
The Rainbow FC program is not a club in the elite of Cameroonian soccer, not represented in the top two divisions
(35 teams). It is owned by Rainbow Sports Investments, one of whose founders is Kingsley Pungong
, a Wharton School of Business graduate and former employee of Wasserman Media Group.
The Rainbow players who have signed with MLS clubs were almost teenagers when they arrived. Some have already washed out but four players could be on MLS rosters in 2017: Nouhou Tolo
promoted by the Seattle Sounders from their USL second team, Philadelphia's Eric Ayuk
, Oyongo and Ndam. Rainbow FC Connection (MLS
& USL): Anatole Abang
(NY Red Bulls, 2015-16) Brian Anunga
(Wilmington Hammerheads, 2015, Carolina Dynamo, 2016) Eric Ayuk
2015-17) Christian Bassogog
(Wilmington Hammerheads, 2015) Charles Eloundou
(Colorado Rapids, 2014-15, Jacksonville Armada, 2016) Jacques Haman
Montreal, 2015-16) Fabrice Mbvouvouma
(FC Montreal, 2015-16) Hassan Ndam
(NY Red Bulls, 2017) Marius Obekop
(NY Red Bulls, 2013-15, Orlando City B, 2016)
(Sounders FC 2, 2016) Ambroise Oyongo
(NY Red Bulls, 2014, Montreal Impact, 2015-17) Nouhou Tolo
(Sounders FC 2, 2016, Seattle Sounders, 2017)