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
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.”