The class of 1990 to 1994 Cameroon Indomitable Lions has been paying tributes to their captain, Stephen Tataw who died in Yaoundé last Friday.

Sports Village Square gathered from Cameroon Insider, a biweekly publication from the stable of Cameroon News and Publishing Corporation that Joseph Antoine Bell, François Omam-Biyik, former teammate and Rigobert Song among others have expressed their sadness over the death of Tataw, whom they described as an inspirational leader.

Antoine Bell, the former Cameroon goalkeeper remarked: “I was devastated and shocked when I heard Stephen Tataw had died.

“We did not know he was sick. It’s Ndip Akem who posted the information of his illness in the 1990 group and before we could find out what was wrong with him and where he was hospitalised, the bad news of his death was announced.

“Stephen Tataw was a unique leader. He had a listening ear to player’s worries and always tabled them to football stakeholders for solutions.

“For someone from an English-speaking background, he equally spoke very fluent Bassa and most times that was the language we communicated with on the field.”

François Omam-Biyik, whose towering 67th minute header 30 years ago enabled Cameroon shock Argentina 1-0 at the Italia ’90 also spoke in similar vein.

“I’m still to believe he is dead. I could barely catch sleep at night and I think that’s how it’s going to be for the next days.

“Stephen Tataw and I had a very good relationship. He was a nice person and spoke very few words. He was also very discreet and I think that’s one of the qualities that made the coach name him captain.

“He was also fearless I can remember when exchanging pennants with Maradona during our match in the 1990, Maradona tapped his shoulder to encourage him. But Tataw did same to Maradona looking him straight in the eyes. We have lost a great man.”

“I had the opportunity to know and meet him during the 1994 World Cup and at that time I was still very young”, remarked Rigobert Song who captained Cameroon to beat Nigeria to the Africa Cup of Nations in Lagos in 2000.

Continuing, Song, a Liverpool legend remarked: “He greatly touched my life… he was modest, reserved but yet very efficient in and out of the field.

“Whenever he called me captain, I always told him you are the true captain. This is a major loss for us. Man proposes and God disposes.”

Bertin Ebwellé Ndingué, another member of the Italia ’90 squad remarked: “Cameroon has lost one of its emblematic figures in football.

“He was a defence monster. Both of us met in the 1980’s in Tonnerre Kalara Club. He came from Cammark Kumba and I from Lions of Yaounde and we established a great relationship.

“My first steps in learning how to drive a car was in his vehicle. His courage and imposing leadership will always be remembered. May his soul rest in peace.”

The late Tataw was in the winning team of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1988 in Morocco, beating Nigeria 1-0.  

His death was announced by Mbombo Njoya, the president of Cameroon football governing body, (FECAFOOT) on his Twitter last Friday: “It is with sad emotions that I learned the death of former Indomitable Lions Captain Stephan Tataw today.”

Stephen Tataw was best known for leading Cameroon against all odds to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1990. Cameroon beat Argentina with Diego Maradona as captain in the opening match of the tournament to become the first African country to reach that stage of the competition.

He again captained the Lions four years later at the USA ‘94 World Cup.

Born in Ekona, on 31 March 1963, Stephen Tataw started his footballing career with Cammark of Kumba but rose to the limelight when he joined Tonnerre Kalara Club of Yaoundé in 1988 where he spent three years.

From Tonnerre he joined Olympic Mvolye in 1992. After the 1990 World Cup, Stephen Tataw had unsuccessful stints with English League First Division club Queens Park Rangers on trial and Second Division club Brighton & Hove Albion.

In 1995, he joined Tosu Futures of Japan. He became the first African footballer to play for a professional Japanese club.

Before his death, Tataw was a member of FECAFOOT’s Technical Football Department. His last public appearance was during the draws of the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) at the Yaoundé Multipurpose Sports Complex. He walked in with the trophy.