What you need to know:
- That was the first time for an African country to reach that level of competition.
Tributes from football personalities, team mates and relatives dominated the funeral of former Indomitable Lions captain, Stephen Eta Tataw, who led the Cameroonian national team to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. That was the first time for an African country to reach that level of competition.
Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o and Special Advisor to the president of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) was at the funeral venue in Yaounde where the fallen star was buried Saturday.
He presented a tribute from Caf president Ahmad Ahmad, as well as his own as former captain of the Indomitable Lions.
The Caf boss’s message of condolence was read before thousands of mourners at the Yaoundé Sports Complex on Friday evening. “He was a symbol of African football,” part of the speech stated, adding that Tataw captained a squad that brought glory to football in Africa.
Ahmad’s speech also drew attention to the fact that only three captains from Africa have ever played in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
“Caf is proud to have had a player like you. Africa will always remember Tataw and the rest of his teammates for propelling African football to the global height it has attained,” the speech said.
Eto’o star of attraction
Ahmad recalled in his eulogy that he last saw Tataw in public during the draws of the African Championship of Nations (Chan), which took place in Yaounde in February this year.
Eto’o, who was the centre of attraction at the funeral, told the mourners that he speaks not only for Ahmad, but also as a former captain of the Indomitable Lions, who was an acquaintance of the departed former player.
“We discussed a lot about projects aimed at developing football in Cameroon. I admired and learned a lot from Tataw. I will stand by and assist the family of Tataw who leaves behind two children,” Eto’o said.
Eto’s was mobbed by his supporters wearing T-shirts with his name when he entered the sports complex. They also waved placards with his name and messages of support.
Tataw death left his 1990 World Cup teammates in deep sorrow. Vincent Ongandi, spokesperson of the 1990 squad, in his tribute said “Capi” as they fondly called Tataw, would be greatly missed.
Sorrow gripped mourners even more when Ongandi said that Tataw left them shortly after two other members of the squad, Benjamin Massing, and Louis Paul Mfede, died a few years ago.
“We will watch over your kids,” the old Lions promised. The teammates regretted that Tataw, like the other two departed former players, missed the official handing over by the government last week in Yaoundé of keys to their apartments promised to them 30 years ago after their 1990 World Cup exploits.
The iconic Roger Milla, who was outstanding at the global bonanza with spectacular goals and corner post dance did not publicly speak. But he told Nation Sport that Tataw was a model of patriotism.
Milla who now works for the presidency as an advisor of football, said that he was pleased the state and the football federation of Cameroon gave Tataw an honourable burial.
Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) paid the funeral bill. The family was thankful. A family representative, Dorcas Agbor, said Tataw was the fifth of eight children, and he loved football right from childhood.
Before joining the national football team, Tataw played for Tonnere Kalara club of Yaounde in 1988. A delegation from the team, led by its president, handed over to one of Tataw,’s children the captain’s jersey. Tataw was one of three captains of the Yaounde-based top-tier club.
Tataw was buried after a mass led by a priest. The priest told the crowd that Tataw’s peers asked him to celebrate the Mass due to the admiration he had for the fallen player while he was in the seminary. The priest said that he was even nicked named “Tataw” by fellow seminarians.
“I admired his sagacity to defend the national colours. He was a leader and a patriot,” he said.
Cameroon’s Minister of Sports Prof Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, who represented President Paul Biya, described Tataw as patriotic, loyal and a hard working footballer before he posthumously decorating him with medal of the Commander of the Cameroon Order of Valour.