Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Cameroon: Rise and Fall of a Football Legend

Abega Theophile's life was short, but intense and impacted many people.

Theophile Abega rose to the limelight in 1977 when as a young student of lycée Obala, scored the unique goal in the Cup of Cameroon final pitting Canon Yaounde against Tonnerre which gave the Kpa-kum victory. From thenceforth, his status changed in the club from a substitute to a full time player. He led Canon to three consecutive cup finals in the early eighties but it was during the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire that Abega rose to international prominence. However, his seemingly bright football career was thwarted by an injury inflicted on him by the then Zambian goalkeeper, Efford Chabala in 1986. After recovering from the injury, Dr Abega as he was fondly called attempted a comeback without success. He made a brief professional career in Nice, Toulouse and Veve sport of Switzerland, Abega returned to his mother club Canon in 1988. There, he played his last match against Tonnerre during which he punched the referee for injustice.

From player, Abega whose father's dream was to see him become a medical doctor, switched to football management and is so far the longest serving official of Canon, first as general manager and later on as president. Under his tenure of office, he negotiated a partnership with Lokeren football club of Belgium which gave Canon the lone bus they own today and an office. Canon last won a national or continental title under his stewardship as he is reputed to have been the first club president to pay handsome salaries to footballers in Cameroon. Frustrated by repeated intestinal fighting in Canon, Abega Mbida Théophile left football for politics. He won the primaries in the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, CPDM for legislative elections but failed to be confirmed by party hierarchy. He had to cut short his ambition to run for the position of mayor of Yaounde IV, a post he occupied until his untimely death yesterday.

In the midst of this busy life, Abega was a sick person. He had been forbidden by medical doctors not to consume alcohol which acted as an energizer to him. Abega returned from the United States of America recently and complained about a pain on the leg. He was admitted at the General Hospital in Yaounde. He initially responded positively to treatment and told people he was feeling better not knowing the end was in sight. His family was expecting him back home yesterday when instead they got news of his passing away at about 8 a.m. He was aged 58 and leaves behind the large football family to mourn after him.

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