CAMEROON coach Serge Mimpo-Tsintsémé says the team’s ambition heading into the TotalEnergies U-17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Algeria 2023 is squarely to defend their crown.
Cameroon won the title when it was last hosted in Tanzania in 2019 and Mimpo-Tsintsémé, who spoke to CAFOnline.com, said they want to enter the books of history by winning it back-to-back.
A few days before your first game of the competition, what is the state of mind within your group?
The guys are ready, they are well prepared. So the state of mind is calm, everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about. We are just eagerly waiting for match day to descend into the stadium.
You had a pre-tournament training camp in Tunisia where you played and won three friendly matches. Was this reassuring for you?
Yes, it’s motivating, it’s reassuring. It was also thinking about acclimatization. Many players had not yet travelled outside the country and there was worry it might disturb them during the first game and that is why we needed to do that early. The period of training in Tunisia was really beneficial to us.
Is there pressure on your team, as the defending champions?
No, I do not think so. Former coach Libih Thomas has indeed set the bar at a very high level, it’s good for motivation but we too want to make our way and then win this trophy. It can also be a source of motivation, but we must not worry too much about those who have won. We have to try to look at our objective, which is to get our own trophy and write our own story.
Have you addressed this with the players?
Yes, it is part of the pedagogy. You know, you have to talk a lot with them, you have to communicate a lot; talk about your experience, when you were little like them. We talk to them about all that, whether it’s with the big ones or with the little ones, how to prepare for our matches and all that.
You have Burkina Faso and Mali in your group and both have already won this tournament before. How difficult will they be as opponents?
They are good, but we too are good and we are ready. We respect everyone but are not afraid of the opponents we will face. There will be two teams from the group going to the quarter-finals and we have to be one of those two.
You have had a very rich playing career being a former Cameroonian international and a gold medalist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. How do you pass this experience on to the players?
I think it makes it easier for me but at the same time, you have to know how to transmit your ideas and your plan to the players. Having a good background as a player is an advantage because the players find it easier to listen to you.
What are Cameroon’s targets for the tournament?
Our ambition is to retain the trophy and that will definitely also take us to the World Cup. I think we have the potential to defend our title.