In an interview with Jeune Afrique and published this Friday, the former goalkeeper of the indomitable Lions believes that the Olympic champion (Sidney 2000) excluded from the den is probably the best goalkeeper of Cameroon at the moment.
It has been 14 years since the former goalkeeper of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon is a member of the technical staff of Espanyol Barcelona, where he played from 1982 to 2001. Thomas Nkono, 61, participates in the formation of the club’s goalkeepers.
You played with Espanyol for nine years. When you left, did the leaders of the time consider for you a retraining in the club at the end of your career?
Absolutely not. When I stopped my career in 1997, I joined the technical staff of the Cameroonian selection, then coached by Claude Le Roy, notably in view of the 1998 World Cup in France. It was in 2003 that the president then in office (Antonio Baro, NDLR) contacted me to propose me to join the club, to work with the goalkeepers of Espanyol. The youngsters and those of the team reserve, at first.
When did you start working with those in the professional workforce?
It was Luis Fernandez, during his passage on the bench of Espanyol in 2003-2004, who asked and obtained that I also integrate the staff of the professional team. I never left.
However, many coaches have passed since …
Yes, but every time, they knew that I was in charge of the training of the goalkeepers. And it has never been a problem. I just had to show my skills on the ground. Training of goalkeepers also requires adapting. The position has changed a lot in recent years. The goalkeepers are asked to play high, to play low, to have a good technique. There is a lot of field work, but also analytical to do.
Have you seen your prerogatives expand in recent years?
Espanyol can not afford the means of great Spanish clubs. So we must also focus on training our players. A center was created a few years ago, and there is a dedicated staff dedicated to training our goalkeepers, who have to develop certain characteristics at the level of the game. I have a look at the training of the goalkeepers.
There are quite a few Africans in professional technical staff in Europe …
Yes. And in Spain, I am the only one. Which does not really surprise me. There are networks, and it is not always easy for a foreigner, African or not, to integrate a professional club and to exercise responsibilities there. I am lucky to work in a club where I am trusted. I have an experience internationally, which I share with the goalkeepers. I was involved in the formation of goalkeepers who are now playing in Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 in Spain.
What do you see in the current Cameroonian goalkeepers?
Traditionally, there have always been good goalkeepers in Cameroon. We see it now, with the new generation. Fabrice Ondoa (Atletico Sevilla, Ligue 2) is very talented, I am often in touch with him. He is very mature. André Onana (Ajax Amsterdam) is also very good. There is also Carlos Kameni (Malaga), older and perhaps the best Cameroonian goalkeeper of the moment.
Could you work again with Cameroon?
I do not know … It sounds difficult, I’m at Espanyol, so I’m very busy. But why not, perhaps at the training level?