Exclusive: Star footballer Ernest Nfor on Cameroon, his career in Europe and Azerbaijan

Star Cameroonian footballer Ernest Nfor during an interview in Baku, Azerbaijan

Star Cameroonian footballer Ernest Nfor during an interview in Baku, Azerbaijan

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN After an extensive career in Europe, Cameroonian star footballer Ernest Webnje Nfor signed a multiyear deal in 2013 with the rising Neftchi Baku PFK in Azerbaijan’s Premier League.

After playing for eight years in Belgium for clubs such as S.V. Zulte Waregem, K.V. Kortrijk and K.A.A. Gent, the striker headed to Azerbaijan for a change of scenery and to help kick-start this rising football nation’s efforts to make Europe’s football map. The country, which has invested heavily in developing not just football but a range of sports in recent years, is geared to become a global sporting mecca.

With Azerbaijan hosting the 2015 European Games, the 2016 European Beach Football Championship, the 2016 Baku European Grand Prix and 2020 UEFA European Football Championship matches, budding and established foreign footballers alike are signing deals in Azerbaijan to get a piece of the limelight.

For Nfor, the move has more than paid off – his hat-trick during an UEFA Europa League match against Georgia’s FC Chikhura Sachkhere on Aug. 7, 2014 drew the attention of high-profile scouts worldwide, and particularly in Europe, who have proceeded to inundate his agent with offers to head back abroad.

Neftchi Stadium Baku, Azerbaijan

Neftchi Stadium Baku, Azerbaijan

For Nfor, though, whose contract runs out this season, there is no rush to return to Europe. Although he is fielding a number of proposals, he told Bamenda Online that he hopes to re-up his deal with Neftchi.

Bamenda Online  caught up with Nfor in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku – a virtual Dubai in miniature – to talk about his development as a footballer, Cameroonian football, and his love for his family back home.

Bamendaonline: What factors allowed you to stand out?

Ernest Nfor: The first thing is God. There is a God that makes everything happen for you. I was born to a family of nine children and take care of them all. These are important details because they gave me the drive to become an overachiever and work hard to reach my ambitions. The most important factor is hard work.

BamendaonlineHow different is football in Cameroon from football abroad?

Ernest Nfor: Very different. Conditions of infrastructure are poor and player incentives are not strong compared to Azerbaijan. After playing in Cameroon for two years at the top level, upon coming to Europe, I knew that I was going to make it because I had succeeded in such poor conditions in Cameroon already. The conditions in Europe were better, so it was easier for me to succeed.

Unfortunately, from my experience, players in Africa are not treated at comparable levels with European standards. Instead, too much emphasis is placed by club management on consuming what they can as opposed to striving for excellence. This is a big problem for Africa.

We need strong professional bodies in Africa that can develop our talents back home.

Given comparable conditions, African players would undoubtedly be the best in the world.

Bamendaonline: Do you have any recommendations for Cameroonians, who aspire to be like you?

Ernest Nfor: Many of my countrymen go out of their way to get to Europe. In many instances, they end up having to do many things that they never thought they would to chase their dreams.

In my view, the most important things is to know exactly where one wants to be and what role one wants to play before traveling and embarking on such an adventure. For example, I would never advise anyone to travel without documents, etc., which has happened before with young African players.

The most important thing is not to be in Europe, but rather to be where you deserve to be.

Too few believe that you can play the game in Africa and be happy, but I believe that it is possible.

Although I’m a professional in Europe, I am always missing my family in Cameroon, and cannot wait to see their faces after a hard-fought game or season. It is so ironic that those of us who play abroad have this longing to go back, while those of us who are home in our motherland want to be in our position.

By Ernest Ita, Bamendaonline correspondent Baku

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