Imagine scoring a goal that gives your country its biggest victory yet and while celebrating, you are shown a red card.
That’s exactly what happened to Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar on Friday. The 30-year-old made history with a beauty of a header as the Indomitable Lions claimed a first win over Brazil.
It was followed by the captain ripping off his shirt in jubilation and being sent off for a second yellow card for the offence. Not long before his 92nd-minute goal, Aboubakar had been shown a first yellow card for rugby tackling Gabriel Martinelli. The red card meant he became the first player to score and be sent off in a World Cup match since Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 final.
In more agony for Cameroon, with Switzerland taking three points in their showdown with Serbia, they were knocked out of the World Cup.
The goal was Aboubakar’s first World Cup goal and it also meant he’s third in Cameroon’s all-time men’s goalscorer list behind Samuel Eto’o (56) and Roger Milla (43).
Hailing from Roumdé Adjia (the neighbourhood), famous for producing criminals and drug consumers, Aboubakar managed to stay focused.
“He wasn’t like us. He never indulged in some of the shady things we did as young boys,” his brother Michel Dior had said in an interview earlier this year. He knew what he wanted as a kid and he worked hard towards it.”
Football is something I’ve always loved,” says Aboubakar. The love affair, which began in Garoua, the capital of the North region where he was born, has taken Aboubakar all over the world playing for clubs in Africa, Europe and Asia.
The big names elude, however. He was headed to Chelsea before a misunderstanding over commission percentages saw the deal scuppered. Then there were moves to Atlético Madrid and Borussia Dortmund that never came to fruition as well.
“Growing up, I always wanted to play for Real Madrid, but in life you have to take everything with wisdom and good faith,” he said.
Though he’s not managed to emulate the achievement of Eto’o and Milla, Aboubakar, from the age of 12 had been anointed their successor.
Aboubakar followed Milla’s path into European football by joining French side Valenciennes after the 2010 World Cup. It had been during that tournament that Aboubakar made his competitive international debut, being a strike partner to skipper Eto’o as an 18-year-old.
While surely he’s not managed to emulate Eto’o and Milla, he has seen decent success.
He featured in the Cameroon squad that won the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and won its Golden Boot at this year’s AFCON.
Of the opportunities Aboubakar has enjoyed, spells with Porto and Besiktas were the most high-profile. They brought four league titles and four seasons of Champions League football.
He may be considered a shy and discreet player, but on the pitch, he’s commanding and inspirational, one who scored 58 goals in 125 games during five seasons with Porto from 2014.
Injury problems hit Aboubakar’s availability while at Porto meaning he decided on a one-year deal and a permanent switch to Turkish club Besiktas followed in 2020. That was Aboubakar’s second spell with the club, having spent the 2016-17 season in Istanbul on loan from Porto.
In the second half of that season, Aboubakar was instrumental in Besiktas retaining the Super Lig title and salvaging Europa League football from a Champions League group containing Napoli, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv.
Fitness was a regular concern, however, and Aboubakar opted to move to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia on a free transfer.
While his life has been only football from the time he yas young, Aboubakar has managed to maintain other pursuits too. Faith has been an integral part of his life with his mother, who passed away in December 2020, being a deaconess for the Evangelical Missionary Society of Cameroon.
In the past decade though, he’s grown fond of reading.
“I love reading, and for the past decade, I’ve been reading a lot and studying a range of issues from metaphysics to astronomy, philosophy and a lot more. It’s important to read and understand these things because it brings clarity to a person and develops the virtues of a spirit,” he said in a recent interview with New Frame.