Some 192 athletes and their trainers who raised the national flag high this year were guests of honour yesterday 10 August, 2017 at the Unity Palace where President Paul Biya and wife Chantal offered them a Statehouse reception. In addition to the medals they brought back from their various international exploits; be they the recent eighth Francophonie Games in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, African and World championships as well as the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, Azerbaijan they received other medals from the Head of State. Just midway the year, they have beaten the records athletes in the country have been holding for the past decade. Of the number, 60 of them saw the National Anthem of Cameroon vibrate in Gold following their individual prowess to outweigh rivals in various competitions.
An achievement that earned for them yesterday's glorious moments with the Head of State accompanied by members of the national constituted corps and some diplomats. To go by the excitement and joy that all present at the Unity Palace displayed, the satisfaction which accompanied such victories simply witnessed a deserved prolongation. The various awards like the National Order of Valour, the National Order of Merit and the Order of Sport Merit offered to the athletes by Mr Biya indicated the importance attached to their show of strength and character in the defence of the values that reflect Cameroon.
Beyond the self sacrifices and determination that the athletes made to get international and national recognition, the Head of State pointed out the sense of solidarity that their victories symbolise to the country, in particular and humanity as a whole. Drawing from such experiences, President Biya invited the champions to do same for the world and their country at a time people needed such cohesion most. Winning medals like the athletes did meant summoning both intellect and physic; both assets that any leader and loving citizen of a diversified and interconnected nation as Cameroon require. That sense of togetherness has been evident within the past days with the ungentle-manly comments made last weekend by the President of the Confederation of African Football that Cameroon will be unable to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON. In a subtle response to such rhetoric, President Paul Biya reminded the athletes and officials present at the Unity Palace that other international competitions like the AFCON are coming in the country and Cameroon will be ready on the appointed date.
His promise to personally ensure that the event succeeds in Cameroon was another strong message about the desire and resolve by Cameroon to collectively work to savour the next AFCON scheduled in the country. Condemnations have been pouring in from across the country with almost every citizen pushing aside whatever differences they have to defend the country's capacity to host the tournament. By honouring them at the Presidency therefore, the Head of State is out to send a strong message that those who stand for the positive values that Cameroon cherish are not only certain to have personal reward but national recognition as well. Thus, while they see the medals as individual achievements, they have the challenge to serve as touch-bearers ready to pave the way for others both at the national and international levels.