Andre Onana was sidelined for Cameroon's AFCON 2023 opener against Angola after the goalkeeper joined his Cameroon teammates hours before the game since he chose to feature for Manchester United before leaving for Ivory Coast.
What caused his late arrival for AFCON 2023?
According to reports in the media, Onana's arrival at Yamoussoukro was delayed due to poor weather conditions.
The flight had to take a detour and land in Abidjan. As a result of the delayed arrival, manager Rigobert Song had to omit Onana from the matchday squad for the Angola game.
Statement from Onana after late AFCON 2023 arrival
“I have a lot to say, but I won't say it here because we are in competition. The most important thing is sacred union. We are here to win AFCON 2023. I ask the supporters to support us in good times and bad,” Onana told the press.
Onana responds to criticism
The 27-year-old seized the opportunity to respond to the criticism by emphasising his commitment to the national team, stating:
“I am one of the leaders so I take my responsibilities and that is why I am here. I don't want people to criticise the young players in the team. Let people continue to criticise me,” he gushed.
“I'm used to it. I do what is good for my country. It's like choosing between my father and my mother, but my country comes first, that's why I'm here. We are together.”
Onana optimistic of sixth AFCON title
Onana is confident of Cameroon winning their sixth AFCON title, on Ivorian soil as was the case 40 years ago: “I am here to represent my country, my continent. It is a huge honour for me to be here with my country.
“Forty years ago, our elders did something exceptional here. Coming to represent this beautiful country is the most important thing. Concerning my playing time, it is the coach who will decide.
“We are here to win no matter who is playing. We have very good goalkeepers.”
Onana expected to return against Senegal
In a tense climate where Fecafoot (Cameroon Football Federation) is criticised for its perceived leniency towards the star, Onana is expected to reclaim his starting position for Cameroon's next match against Senegal, scheduled for Friday in Yamoussoukro.
Onana not new to controversies
This is not the first time Onana has been involved in controversies. During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Onana was dismissed from the Indomitable Lions camp due to an undisclosed disagreement with coach Song.
Subsequently, despite being in the midst of what could be considered the best season of his career, he made the surprising decision to retire, leading to speculation about the circumstances surrounding the events in Qatar.
However, he later reversed his decision and returned to the Cameroon squad for the AFCON 2023 qualifier against Burundi in September, following intervention from Fecafoot president Samuel Eto’o, who Onana had joined Barcelona from his academy at the age of 14.