Akaba: We will fight for every ball against Cote d’Ivoire

Michelle Akaba

Cameroon forward Michelle Akaba is hoping to inspire her team to victory over Cote d'Ivoire for a place at the final lap of the qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.  

Three-time Women’s Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Cameroon, are bidding a return to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics since their last outing in 2012 in London.

Having pipped the Democratic Republic of Congo to a fourth-round spot, ‘Les Lionnes’ will have to negotiate their way past the Ivorians in a two-legged tie to reach the final of the qualifiers.

Following her second FIFA Women's World Cup outing in France earlier this year, Akaba, who missed London 2012 Olympics admits her career will gain a huge leap if she finally gets to make her debut outing at the Olympic next year in Tokyo.

"We know that the match against Cote d'Ivoire will be very difficult especially because they eliminated Nigeria, but I will say it so loudly that nothing is impossible for anyone who believes," Michelle Akaba

"We are still in the race and we were able to overcome opponents along the way which was not easy because we had to go beyond our capabilities to eliminate Ethiopia and DR Congo", the Amazone FC forward, who made coach Alain Djeumfa's 18-man squad to Abidjan for the first leg on Saturday. 

Having featured in two previous qualifying rounds against Ethiopia and DR Congo, Akaba insists her team will leave nothing to chance in the two-legged affair with the Ivorians, who kicked out the African champions Nigeria and Mali along the road.

“Our victory against DR Congo for me was a step further especially after the elimination of Nigeria. The exit of Ghana also did not only shock us but motivated us to get the desired results to stay in the competition. We can only be proud to be in the race to get our ticket.

“We know that the match against Cote d'Ivoire will be very difficult especially because they eliminated Nigeria, but I will say it so loudly that nothing is impossible for anyone who believes.

“They have a very good coach in coach Clementine (Toure), and we know a good number of their players. We played against them in a friendly last year. We will fight for every ball for us to get the results we want. We are still improving as a team and games like this is another opportunity to get better.

Akaba, who has appeared in five Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018), is setting her sights on leading her side to make a return to the quadrennial sporting showpiece.

“Qualifying for the Olympic Games will be a great achievement. We have been there before and it will be a dream come true for us to be there again.

“As a competition that takes place every four years, some of us will also want to use the opportunity to attract potential employers abroad. So to achieve this, we are going on the one-game-at-a-time principle.

Michelle Akaba 2

“On my part, I will give everything I can and with the help of my mates, we will get this qualification to delicate it the victims of the landslide in Bafoussam.”

Nearly 42 people died, including more than two dozens of children in the Central African nation, after a landslide caused by heavy rains in the town, about 300km away from capital, Yaounde.

Akaba has developed into an experienced player for Cameroon since she dumped athletics for football in 2005 to launch her career with Express of Garoua Academy before teaming up with Lorient FC Yaounde in the Ligue 2 three years later.

In her career that has spanned 14 years, she played for the country's topflight giants like Canon, Louves Minproff and Amazone FAP, celebrating five titles before her sojourn with clubs in Thailand and Turkey, where she won the title with Atasehir Belediyespor in 2018.

At the international level, Akaba has been influential for the Indomitable Lionesses and has been at every edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations since 2010, and reaching the final twice times - 2014 and 2016.

Akaba, who was part of Cameroon's 2011 African Games gold-winning squad does not regret adopting football as her major sport following her career breakthrough from the youth level.

"When I was young, football was my second sport. I spent all my time playing but my first sport which was athletics. I liked to run, but one day my elder brother called me and asks me to accompany him to where he was training women for the tournament every March 8. I found it fun in it, that is how I started developing an interest in football. Today, it has become my job and I'm proud."

The second leg will take place in Yaounde next Tuesday with the winner advancing to the final round of the qualifiers.

Fixtures (Fourth Round)

First Leg

08.11.2019 Nairobi Kenya vs Zambia

09.11.2019 Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire vs Cameroon

Second Leg

11.11.2019 Lusaka Zambia vs Kenya

12.11.2019 Yaounde Cameroon vs Cote d’Ivoire