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Saturday, 30 September, 2000, 21:10 GMT 22:10 UK
Victory sparks Cameroon ecstasy
Cameroonians celebrate over Olympic gold medal
Cameroonians consider football the king of sports
By Francis Ngwa Niba in Yaounde

Cameroonians have thrown themselves into a weekend of wild celebration over their country's first-ever Olympic gold medal.

Not only was it a national first, but there is huge delight that the medal was for football, considered the king of sports here.

We were ordained by God to win

Fan in Yaounde
Although the match started at 0200 Cameroon-time, such is the passion for the game that almost the whole nation stayed up to follow the finals on radio and television.

The Lions got off to a dreadful start, and so when they finally won on a penalty shoot-out, thousands of people, young and old, poured out into the streets of the capital, Yaounde, singing and dancing.

Fireworks and free taxis

Cars hooted in celebration and the handful of taxis still circulating in Yaounde at that time of the morning carried passengers for free.

Cameroonians celebrate over Olympic gold medal
Everyone stayed up until the early hours to follow the match
Large numbers of people began drinking bottle after bottle, and a special government order allowed bars and other drinking places to stay open all night because of the match.

The sky all over Yaounde lit up with fireworks as soon as the Lions' victory became apparent.

In the confusion of euphoria, a few people were injured, but not seriously, and the celebrations were expected to continue all weekend.

"We were ordained by God to win," one excited fan told me.

He claimed that the "obvious bias" of some referees against the Lions had not been sufficient to stop their "victory dance to the finals".

"What goes up, must come down," declared another fan. "Those who think they invented football want to win all football trophies, which is impossible".

To yet another fan, it was only logical that Cameroon should win after medal-holders Nigeria were booted out of the competition.

A grateful country

Dozens of local companies have been offering cash and gifts to the Lions in appreciation.

Cameroonians celebrate over Olympic gold medal
The singing and dancing is expected to last all weekend

Already, after the Lions' victory in the semi-final against Chile last Tuesday, President Paul Biya had dispatched a special envoy to Australia with an undisclosed amount of money and other presents for the players.

A local journalist whose wife delivered a baby at about the time of the Lions' victory has named his child "Sydney" in the team's honour.

While celebrating their triumph, the Lions' fans are looking forward to welcoming home their heroes and seeing the gold medal.

But that party will have to wait until next weekend, because the team is scheduled to play against the European and World cup-holders France in Paris on 4 October.

And once again, Cameroonians will be tuned in to the match - whatever time of day it is held.

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30 Sep 00 | Football
Roaring Lions win football gold
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