Alain Amougou

He scored goals to earn his pay-cheque at dur­ing his play­ing days, but Alain Amougou now earns a liv­ing work­ing in the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor back home in Cameroon. The for­mer Mamelodi Sun­downs for­ward, who re­tired from the pro­fes­sional game 17 years ago

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

The for­mer Mamelodi Sun­downs striker is now part of the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor back home in Cameroon.

There was al­ways an el­e­ment of doubt about whether Alain Amougou would live up to ex­pec­ta­tions at Mamelodi Sun­downs after ar­riv­ing as a re­place­ment for the ever-pop­u­lar Nige­rian Raphael Chukwu, who had left for Ital­ian club Bari ahead of the 1999/00 sea­son.

Most pun­dits had also cho­sen to ig­nore, or for­get, that Amougou had been the rea­son why Sun­downs were knocked out of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League ear­lier in the year by tiny St Louisi­enne from the Re­u­nion Is­lands in a stun­ning up­set.

Amougou struck a brace in the sec­ond leg that was played in the In­dian Ocean na­tion and The Brazil­ians took note of the lively dread­locked for­ward.

Upon fur­ther dig­ging, they found out that the left footed striker was a Cameroo­nian born in France, who had been in Re­u­nion on a six-month deal after con­trac­tual is­sues forced him to walk out from Turk­ish club An­talyas­por.

How­ever, it was nat­u­ral that ques­tions would be asked about how a se­ri­ous foot­baller would end up in Re­u­nion after hav­ing played in France and Turkey.

“I was in Re­u­nion be­cause after the ex­piry of my con­tract in Turkey I didn’t want to re­new. So, in­stead of sign­ing in a coun­try which I didn’t want to be in any­more, I signed for six months in Re­u­nion,” Amougou notes.

“It was an op­por­tu­nity that came via one of my friends who played in the French na­tional team, as he sug­gested I go and help this team in Re­u­nion. It was an un­be­liev­able sit­u­a­tion when I got there. I mean I had gone there out of cu­rios­ity.

“It was a good place to stay and play foot­ball for six months. I never went there on hol­i­day like how some imag­ined. It is a good place to stay be­cause it is a beau­ti­ful is­land with great weather.

“After what I had gone through in Turkey it felt re­fresh­ing to be in Re­u­nion. Turkey was not a place to stay for a long time back in those days be­cause of all the things that were hap­pen­ing in the clubs. Maybe it has changed now,” says Amougou.

‘I liked the coun­try’

In Amougou, Sun­downs were also sign­ing a striker that had played for Caen and FC Paris in the French lower di­vi­sions.

The striker had also a great ref­er­ence in the other Cameroo­nian on Sun­downs’ books at the time, the leg­endary Roger Feutmba.

“Those goals [in the CAF Cham­pi­ons League] con­trib­uted but I also liked the coun­try [South Africa],” Amougou re­mem­bers with a chuckle.

“A lot of things fas­ci­nated me about South Africa, es­pe­cially the apartheid history and the story of [Nel­son] Man­dela, who is an icon that was known all over the world, even to me com­ing from France at the time.

“My friends told me that South Africa was a good place and I was never dis­ap­pointed. I just fell in love with coun­try from day one. When I came with the club [St Louisi­enne] to South Africa for that Cham­pi­ons League match it was the first time I had been there.

“Prior to that I had never imag­ined that I will come to South Africa one day be­cause when you have never been there, all you ever hear are bad sto­ries that dis­cour­age you and it takes brav­ery to over­come this chal­lenge by go­ing to see for your­self.

“When I got here, I liked the coun­try and got to know a bit more than what I had read and heard on the news. I was happy to be in South Africa,” he says.

At the end of his first sea­son he had scored 15 goals, which in­cluded a dou­ble in that fa­mous 3-3 draw against Or­lando Pi­rates in March 2000.

When­ever Amougou scored in his first sea­son, Sun­downs never lost and he was a key man in The Brazil­ians winning their third ti­tle on the trot and the Roth­mans Cup.

“When I came to Sun­downs ev­ery­thing was just new to me, but I was still able to per­form. I found the team was al­ready sta­ble with ev­ery­thing in place the right way so that worked to my favour.

“This was a team that had al­ready been winning the league, so the con­fi­dence was high. When you join a winning team, the tran­si­tion is smoother than when it is a strug­gling team that needs to be up­lifted.

“I was lucky that I had a fel­low brother in Roger who was al­ready well es­tab­lished and re­spected for his con­tri­bu­tion to the team. So, I never felt lost be­cause I had a coun­try­man who pro­vided a shoul­der for me to lean on at a time when com­mu­ni­ca­tion was a chal­lenge.

“He helped me un­der­stand the South African game, which is dif­fer­ent to Europe. In South Africa I found that they are fast, but not as ef­fi­cient in the way they played and phys­i­cally pre­pared com­pared Europe. At the same time, tac­ti­cally they still had a lot of work to do. So that was the dif­fer­ence,” he ex­plains.

Turn­ing down Chiefs

Into his sec­ond sea­son his per­for­mances and con­tri­bu­tion dwin­dled, and at the end of his third year he packed up and left.

The eas­i­est op­tion would have been to stay in the coun­try by join­ing an­other club, but he chose other­wise after also shield­ing off in­ter­est from Kaizer Chiefs fol­low­ing his first year.

“Such was the con­nec­tion and hap­pi­ness that I had at Sun­downs, that after play­ing for them I couldn’t sign with an­other South African team de­spite the in­ter­est that came while I was there.

“Sun­downs was the team that brought me to South Africa, so I wanted them to be the only team that I played for there. That is why I de­cided to move to an­other coun­try after play­ing for them.

“While I was with Sun­downs there was in­ter­est. Kaizer Chiefs wanted me to join them and I had a few other teams as pos­si­ble op­tions, but I just felt it all wasn’t right,” he re­veals.

“HE HELPED ME UN­DER­STAND THE SOUTH AFRICAN GAME, WHICH IS DIF­FER­ENT TO EUROPE.”

For all the good times he had at Sun­downs, winning games and tro­phies, he says he was left dis­ap­pointed by club man­age­ment.

Back then the team was led by Abe Krok, who was deputised by An­gelo and Natasha Tsich­las.

“I wished the club’s man­age­ment would have been 100% pro­fes­sional. With my back­ground of hav­ing mostly been in France, I felt the man­age­ment was not as I was ex­pect­ing, but then I can­not dis­pute that South Africa was mostly good mem­o­ries for me.

“So, in that case I don’t want to be talk­ing a lot about what was bad when that wasn’t how I would de­scribe most of my stay there. There was more good than bad,” says the 47-year-old.

After leav­ing Sun­downs he bat­tled for 18 months with in­jury and his ca­reer was done just after his 30th birth­day.

He had left for Ukraine Premier League club Me­tal­ist Kharkiv in June 2002 but at the end of the fol­low­ing year, his time was up.

“I stayed in the Ukraine for one and a half years but while I was there, I got a knee in­jury which forced me to play with an in­jec­tion most of the time. At that time,

I had the op­tion of un­der­go­ing surgery, con­tinue play­ing with an in­jec­tion or stop play­ing al­to­gether.

“After a lot of con­sid­er­a­tion, I de­cided to stop play­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball. I suf­fered too much with that knee in­jury and in the end, I didn’t have the en­ergy to go to train­ing any­more be­cause I was suf­fer­ing.

“Some­times doc­tors don’t give you all the in­for­ma­tion. As a player you al­ways want to play, es­pe­cially when you are in a for­eign coun­try where you want to earn your y salary on the field and not sit­ting out­side.

“The chal­lenge is, how do you en­joy your­self on the field when you are stress­ing about an in­jury? I know how dan­ger­ous it is to play us­ing in­jec­tions so that is why when I got the proper in­for­ma­tion, I then im­me­di­ately stopped.

“The in­jury hap­pened just after I joined the club so I took the in­jec­tion be­cause I wanted to prove my worth to them in­stead of be­ing some­one who is al­ways out,” he re­calls with dis­ap­point­ment as he painfully saw his ca­reer come to an end.

“The de­ci­sion to stop play­ing was not easy but I had to take it. When you are reach­ing a point where you must take a de­ci­sion, you have to do it and stand by it. I don’t want to look back and be think­ing about why I didn’t want to make an op­er­a­tion.

“The de­ci­sion that I took was fi­nal. I never took any ex­tra cure for the knee and it doesn’t hurt so bad any­more be­cause I now only play so­cial soc­cer,” he says.

‘Man­ag­ing play­ers just too com­pli­cated’

Done with foot­ball, he left Ukraine and went back to France where he ven­tured into the player man­age­ment in­dus­try and when it didn’t work out, moved on to tele­vi­sion work.

Even though he also has coach­ing, he has never taken that route.

“Man­ag­ing was just too com­pli­cated for my lik­ing. With coach­ing I never had a chance to coach at any good level. I don’t want to be coach­ing a team where the im­pact of what I

am do­ing will not be felt.

“I want to coach at a good level where what I am giv­ing will be eas­ily recog­nised and ap­pre­ci­ated.

Amougou, who is di­vorced and whose only child lives in Eng­land, sur­vived a bad ac­ci­dent four years ago, but has been run­ning a re­new­able en­ergy busi­ness in Cameroon since 2012.

He has been stay­ing in Yaounde for the past decade.

“The ac­ci­dent was a very dif­fi­cult pe­riod of my life that I don’t re­ally like talk­ing about be­cause I was a vic­tim and al­most died. I am grate­ful that I sur­vived and didn’t lose any part of my body.

“My re­cov­ery to­wards be­ing nor­mal is now al­most 90% but I am sure I should be back to 100% soon. This ac­ci­dent was with a big truck so you can imag­ine how bad it was,” he laments.

The joy is that he is run­ning a busi­ness called Green So­lu­tions En­ergy, which is at­tached to JCM Power – a com­pany that de­vel­ops and op­er­ates re­new­able en­ergy projects in growth mar­kets.

“I am the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor in a com­pany which spe­cialises in so­lar en­ergy. The com­pany mostly works in part­ner­ship with some of the African gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially in Cameroon where we al­ready have a project run­ning.

“We are tar­get­ing the gen­eral elec­tric­ity prob­lem in Africa. With re­gards to how many we em­ploy, it all de­pends on the stage of the project that we are work­ing on. At the de­vel­op­men­tal stage we use two or three tech­ni­cians along with a project man­ager and his as­sis­tant.

“When the project is now on the ta­ble it doesn’t only in­volve us but a group of c com­pa­nies who are all putting in the ef­fort t to­gether.

“For the project like the one that we are ccur­rently work­ing on here in Cameroon, wwhich is in the op­er­a­tional stage, there are 500 p eo­ple work­ing on it. I bring the busi­ness to thhe com­pany and the once gov­ern­ment has sig­gned the agree­ment pa­pers, we then en­gage thhe tech­ni­cians at the de­vel­op­ment stage.

“It usu­ally takes long to get the li­cences an nd put to­gether the fi­nances, so it is a long pr ro­cess. In Cameroon we are not work­ing on n small projects, but 50 megawatts that we ar re go­ing to in­ject in the net­work to be then di rected to the peo­ple.

“So, it is not like we are putting a project for one house, but rather feed­ing the net­work. We are work­ing di­rectly with the gov­ern­ment and not with peo­ple. The power pur­chase agree­ment that we sign is with the buyer who is the sup­plier in the coun­try,” he de­tails, while then dis­clos­ing that he never stud­ied for the job that he is now do­ing.

“I never re­ally stud­ied for this be­cause all the ex­pe­ri­ence that I have was gained on the job. This one was an op­por­tu­nity first and se­condly was new for me in a way that I had to learn, which was good since I like start­ing a project from the ground.

“Right now, I am not an en­gi­neer, but I un­der­stand that kind of job be­cause I am al­ways hands-on. I never went to school for what I am do­ing but rather got to learn on the job, which I feel is im­por­tant be­cause it was what you do after do­ing the the­ory in class,” he con­cludes.

“I DIDN’T HAVE THE EN­ERGY TO GO TO TRAIN­ING ANY­MORE BE­CAUSE I WAS SUF­FER­ING.”

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