• Song said Onana’s recall “depended on him” and was “because he did the right thing”.
• Cameroon have qualified for the last four editions of Afcon but need at least a draw in their closing game if they are to reach the 2023 finals, having gained a point from their last three group stage games, most recently losing to Namibia in March.
Andre Onana’s Cameroon return does not signify an end to “problems” between the goalkeeper and the national team coaching staff, former Indomitable Lions player Patrick Suffo has said.
Manchester United goalkeeper Onana confirmed on Monday he would play international football again. Onana was suspended for “disciplinary reasons” during the 2022 World Cup by national football federation Fecafoot.
The governing body said Cameroon boss Rigobert Song had made the decision. Suffo, whose time with Song in the national team included winning the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and appearing at that year’s World Cup, said Onana and Song’s relationship is “still a bit cold”.
“As far as being friends, I’m not very sure,” he told BBC World Service’s Sport Today. “I’m curious to see what’s going to happen once they start working together again. “The player came out and denied it was [a] discipline [issue], so many people in Cameroon understood that it was maybe other problems.
“I believe [Onana] said he didn’t want to play while these guys were in charge of the team — Rigobert and the rest of the staff.
“I believe he is coming to play for Cameroon, not the manager or anybody else. That is sometimes a problem because you have to have the same view of football to be able to perform at the highest level.”
Onana, who has been ever-present in United’s opening four matches of the season, did not name Song in his social media post announcing his return for a crucial Afcon 2023 qualifier at home to Burundi on September 12.
The 27-year-old said he had agreed to be called up with “unshakeable certainty” and praised the Cameroonian government, but also claimed he had faced “ordeals marked by injustice and manipulation”, adding that “nothing and no-one” would change his desire to win more caps.
“Rigobert was captain for more than a decade, so he has experience in dealing with players,” said former Sheffield United and Coventry City striker Suffo. “If this has to be resolved, he is the best person to go about this.
“He has what it takes to put [Onana] in the right frame of mind to play this game. It is a very, very big game for Cameroon.”
Song said Onana’s recall “depended on him” and was “because he did the right thing”.
“There was never a problem with Andre,” claimed the ex-Liverpool and West Ham United defender. “We are satisfied that he is reunited with the group.”
Suffo said Onana’s experiences at Ajax, Inter Milan and United, who signed the Champions League finalist from the Italian club for 55m euros (Sh8.6bn) in July, had helped him deal with the situation since he left the World Cup after playing in Cameroon’s opening group stage game in November.
“He came back because he was ready to put some of those problems behind him and just concentrate on football,” added Suffo.
“He has the personality to do that after playing for such top clubs. If you look at his last three clubs, they are massive clubs where you have to be very strong mentally to perform.”
Cameroon have qualified for the last four editions of Afcon but need at least a draw in their closing game if they are to reach the 2023 finals, having gained a point from their last three group stage games, most recently losing to Namibia in March.
The tournament takes place between January 13 and February 11, 2024.