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National holiday

Joyous Cameroon celebrates Olympic gold

Posted: Sunday October 01, 2000 12:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday November 14, 2000 9:47 AM

  Cameroon's suprising run to the gold medal in the Olympics has the country basking in national pride. AP

YAOUNDE, Cameroon ( -- Cameroonians spent Sunday celebrating their gold medal in soccer.

The Olympic title gave the people of this Central African country, which is burdened by poverty, a reason to be proud.

"Cameroon has proven that Africa should be counted upon," said Dr. Paul Tan, a university lecturer in biology. "Cameroon's victory was not luck. ... We challenge any nation to grab that trophy from Cameroon within the next 10 years because Cameroon remains the torch-bearer of the continent."

Cameroon used an own-goal off the face of a Spanish defender and some well-aimed penalty kicks in a shootout to win a victory that came here just before dawn Saturday.

Pierre Wome scored the winning penalty kick as Cameroon outscored Spain 5-3 in the shootout, after the two teams were tied 2-2 after two overtimes.

Cameroon's victory was the second consecutive soccer gold medal for Africa. Nigeria was the first African nation to win it, in Atlanta four years ago.

The game ended about 5 a.m. in Cameroon, sparking an impromptu party across this soccer-crazed country. The streets of Yaounde and other major cities were jammed with revelers screaming with joy. It was late afternoon before things began to settle down and the streets cleared. Most stores remained closed all day.

Late Saturday, a decree signed by President Paul Biya declared Monday a national holiday to celebrate. Many Cameroonians had already made Friday a self-declared holiday, taking the day off so they could rest up for the game, which didn't start here until early morning Saturday.

Halfway through the game, the video feed from Australia was cut to Cameroonians watching the game on state-owned television, causing a flood of people to bars and restaurants that could receive it on French or South African pay-television networks.

For most of the rest of the match, state TV continued the broadcast with just the voice of a Cameroonian announcer describing the play-by-play.

Authorities in this interior city said at least 13 people had been hospitalized with minor injuries incurred during the celebrations.

But a few injuries did little to dampen the joy that was still sweeping Cameroon more than a day after the game ended. Bars remained jammed with people continuing to hash out the finer points of the game, and just about everywhere else people gathered, the gold medal appeared to be the prime topic.

"Our victory was not luck but determination backed by skills and talent," said civil servant Peter Ayuk. "We are proud of that and we remain a mighty football nation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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