The extraordinary story of Cameroon head coach Rigobert Song

2 months ago

As Cameroon gear up for their must-win tie against Brazil, the African nation will be hoping to emulate their head coach Rigobert Song in overcoming the odds.

Song will arguably go down as one of Cameroon’s brightest stars along with former teammate Samuel Eto’o. The former Liverpool defender has played in four World Cups as a player and is currently making an appearance at his fifth, in his role as Cameroon’s coach.

Known for his dreadlock and dyed blonde goatee, Song was appointed as Cameroon’s head coach in February earlier this year replacing Portuguese coach Toni Conceicao.

Song then overcame a stern test against Algeria, helping Cameroon book their place in at the 2022 World Cup in a winner take all showdown.

Overcoming a stroke

While Song is no stranger to overcoming serious pressure, his greatest achievement so far has to be his recovery following a stroke in 2016. Song acknowledges to L’Equipe that it was his dog who ultimately saved his life.

“I was watching TV, but I felt very tired,” Song told L’Equipe “I left the door open because I was expecting a visitor. If it had been closed, it was over because my family was in Paris. My dog must have felt something and started barking. Then the person who was waiting came and saw me lying on the floor.”

President’s intervention

Following the stroke, Song had trouble securing the required hospital attention he needed and thanks then-president Paul Biya and his family for their support.

“Without him [Biya] or his wife, I would not be here today. I cannot be grateful enough,” Song continued. “The president of Cameroon told my family that he would take care of everything and he flew me to Paris.”

The afterlife

In his comatose state Song says he had a series of visions that eventually helped him recover, including a meeting with his father who died when Rigobert was still a child.

“It was like a dream,” Song stated. “I reunited with my ancestors. My father died when I was 9 years old, but I recognized him. He told me: ‘What are you doing here? You have to go back’.”

Song will be hoping to instill this level of resilience in his players when Cameroon take on Brazil on December 3. The African nation have only made the knockout stages once before during 1990 World Cup in Italy.