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CAN 2022: Collins Faï, Cameroon’s defense asset against Egypt

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Defender Collins Faï during a press conference at the Olembe stadium in Yaoundé on January 16, 2022.

Saturday January 29, he was everywhere. On the lawn of the Japoma stadium in Douala, where the Indomitable Lions played their quarter-final match against Gambia, Collins Faï, 29, runs after the ball, makes passes, camps in defense and goes back in attack. At the end of the meeting, won thanks to a double from Karl Toko-Ekambi, Cameroon qualified for the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations (CAN).

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On social networks, we ignite for the talent of Collins Faï, this defender ” discreet “ Who “does an amazing job” since the start of the competition. “Does Barça’s money [FC Barcelone] can even be enough to buy it? “, quips a user. Some go so far as to give it a score of 10/10, saluting with humor “a clean game, without Faï “.

According to the sports daily The Team, the right side is for the moment “the best passer of this CAN”. During Cameroon’s second game, against Ethiopia, the online media Camfoot listed his statistics: 67 touches of the ball, four duels won, three successful crosses, zero dribble against him, two assists (out of the four goals scored by Cameroon).

“Rogue and Brawler”

A success that does not surprise those who rubbed shoulders with him at the Union Sportive de Douala (USD), a first division club where he played before flying to Dinamo Bucharest (2013-2015), in Romania.

At the time, Faustin Domkeu, who then chaired the USD, had two projects : “Recruit great players for the first team and young people to take over. To achieve them, he trusts local coaches responsible for finding talent. This is how the young Collins, who was then playing at FC Bamenda Academy, in the English-speaking region of the North West, was recruited.

Immediately, Faustin Domkeu, today president of the New Stars of Douala, is struck by “his love of football, his intelligence and his lack of interest in money”. He said to me: “I want to play! I want to play, president!”, he recalls. Everyone was unanimous on his talent. » Collins Faï is then one of the youngest players in the team.

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In training, his “technical skills” seduce Bonaventure Djonkep, the USD coach at the time. “A defender is 75% defensive and 25% offensive. Make three assists in five games [comme il l’a fait dans cette CAN], vsis very positive. And that’s what he was already doing when he was at the Douala Sports Union », he recalls. Despite his young age, Collins Faï is tenured. “Rough and Brawler” it quickly becomes “an essential link” of the team in the field. The club was crowned champion of Cameroon in 2012. He was one of the architects of victory », confirms his former coach.

That season, Joël Babanda was the league’s and USD’s top scorer. He owes it in part to “Collins’ vision of the game and his technical ability to pass the ball he says. “He is very precise when it comes to sending balls to the attackers. He delights you. When he has the ball, you know straight away that you have to go into the penalty area because he will try to find you,” he continues, admiringly. Joël Babanda and Collins Faï will both be called up for selection A’ and in the national military team, with which they will hoist Cameroon to the final of the African Military Cup in 2012.

Twice Belgian champion

For Franck Happi, successor to Faustin Domkeu at the head of the USD, “his combativeness and his rage » to win pushed Collins Faï to aim for the heights, even when some doubted him. Thus, during a trip against a club that used to put the USD in difficulty, the coach had found him too small in size (1.67 m) to align him. “I told him: ‘With Fai, you can be sure that your entire corridor will be closed. No one will pass” relates Franck Happi.

The coach follows his advice and the match ends in a draw (0-0). “Fai was extraordinary that day”, rejoices again the one who has become director of football development at Fécafoot, the Cameroonian federation, specifying that the young man is “the first footballer” to have shown him ” the gratitude “ in thirteen years of career in sport.

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“He is calm, composed, always ready for advice. He will go far », assures former teammate Joël Babanda. After Romania, Collins Faï joined Standard de Liège in 2015, with whom he won the Belgian Cup in 2016 and 2018. Recently, he signed with Al Taï, a Saudi club. In 2017, with the Indomitable Lions, he won the CAN in Gabon by winning the final against Egypt. To be able to repeat the feat at home, he and his colleagues must again beat the Pharaohs, this time in the semi-finals, this Thursday, February 3.

While waiting for the outcome of the match, Emmanuel Ngassa Happi, president of the USD committee of wise men, is delighted with the spotlight on Collins Faï: “He is our ambassador. »

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