François Omam-Biyik’s goal and an unheralded team of journeymen defeated Diego Maradona’s world champions
Of the great World Cup upsets – the USA’s victory over England in 1950, North Korea’s over Italy in 1966 and Algeria’s over West Germany in 1982 probably push it close – this one stands alone in myth and memory. It was not a perfect match but it was an irresistible narrative, as the World Cup champions, led by the great Diego Maradona, were vanquished by an unheralded team largely assembled of journeymen players from the French lower divisions – though for some of them even that was either an impossible dream or a distant memory.
In the space of 90 minutes African football, once derided for being all about juju magic and Zairian defenders with a limited grasp of free-kick regulations, became credible. The result was celebrated not only in Cameroon, where impromptu street parties erupted across the nation and a reporter from the Telegraph wrote, intriguingly, that “a lady in a floral dress and turban did a hand-stand”, but across Africa and beyond. When they were finally knocked out a woman in Bangladesh committed suicide, writing that “the elimination of Cameroon means the end of my life”.