Andre Onana has been benched ahead of Cameroon’s crucial match against Gambia in the African Cup of Nations.
The Indomitable Lions desperately need all three points to stand any chance of qualifying for the next round of the tournament in the Ivory Coast.
A disappointing opening game against Guinea saw Cameroon draw 1-1, despite the opposition being reduced to ten men for the entirety of the second half.
Onana was not selected for this match, owing to his late arrival to the tournament after an agreement was struck between Manchester United and the Cameroonian FA
The goalkeeper had delayed his participation to enable him to start for Erik ten Hag in the crucial match against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.
His plan was then to fly directly to the Ivory Coast from Manchester after the game, to join the Cameroonian squad ahead of the Guinea game the next day.
Issues with weather led to Onana’s flight being delayed and eventually diverted, however. He was forced to land three hours away from his original destination, only arriving at the team hotel at 5am on Monday – twelve hours before the match.
Rigobert Song, the Cameroonian manager, decided not to play Onana as a result, who was reportedly furious at this decision. Instead, his cousin – Fabrice Ondoa – started in the United’s man place.
Onana was then selected for the game against Senegal four days later. A shaky performance ensued with the goalkeeper not covering himself in glory as Cameroon ran out 3-1 losers.
These two results have left the Indomitable Lions on the verge of an early exit from AFCON. A win against Gambia gives them a chance of qualification from the group stage; a draw or loss will see them on the next flight home from the Ivory Coast.
Which is why Song’s decision to once again bench Onana has caused shockwaves. It will result in a huge public furore should Cameroon fail to win.
The Cameroonian FA, under pressure from the country’s government, had specifically asked Onana to end his international retirement, following an intense fall-out between the goalkeeper and Song at the 2022 World Cup.
The 27-year-old agreed and returned for the crucial qualifying match against Burundi last September.
Nonetheless, the pair had not appeared to have fully repaired their relationship prior to the start of the tournament.
This decision to bench Onana for such an important match will likely cause another dramatic rift between them, regardless of the result.