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Cameroon’s Goalkeeper André Onana Just Wants to Play

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Whereas the membership jettisoned most of the foreign-born players topic to the rule, Onana’s promise was so excessive that he was persuaded to stay within the academy, the place he was allowed to proceed training on daily basis however to not play in official video games. The hiatus from competitors took its toll. “You’ll be able to practice as a lot as you want however in the long run you practice to play,” Onana stated. “And should you don’t, it impacts you mentally and bodily.”

By the point Onana turned 18, and was once more eligible to play, Barcelona had signed Marc-André ter Stegen, a promising German goalkeeper, and Claudio Bravo, who had simply helped Chile win the Copa América. Onana knew, he stated, his future lay elsewhere.

He determined to attempt his luck within the Netherlands, and inside a 12 months he had established himself as Ajax’s No. 1 goalkeeper. He was solely 19.

The timing couldn’t have been higher. Ajax, like Barcelona, had a ardour for homegrown expertise, and the abilities that had simply began to return into its first workforce turned out to be its finest in a era. And the ball abilities Onana had honed at Barcelona have been an ideal match for his Ajax’s model.

Success shortly adopted, as did sturdy performances towards richer golf equipment in European competitions just like the Champions League. By the summer season of 2020, a few of these groups had began to circle, providing Ajax tens of millions for its younger goalkeeper. Ajax declined to promote, assured the worth for Onana, and its different younger stars, would proceed to rise.

After which, simply because it had a couple of years earlier, all of it stopped for Onana when his drug check got here again optimistic. Onana appealed the one-year ban he was given, and European soccer’s governing physique accepted his clarification.

However beneath soccer’s rules, he was nonetheless accountable, and so the punishment, lowered to seven months, meant that beginning in February 2021 Onana was successfully ostracized from soccer. When his Ajax teammates lifted the trophy that spring to rejoice a title to which he had contributed, he wasn’t allowed to enter the stadium to look at.

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