Cameroon goalkeeper André Onana just wants to play

While the club Eliminate most foreign-born players As a rule, Onana’s promise was so high that he was persuaded to stay at the academy, where he was allowed to continue training every day but was not allowed to play in the official games. Disruption from competition has had its consequences. “You can practice as much as you want but in the end you have to practice to play,” says Onana. “And if you don’t, it affects you mentally and physically.”

When Onana turned 18 and was eligible to play again, Barcelona signed Marc-André ter Stegen, a promising German goalkeeper, and Claudio Bravo, who had just helped Chile win the Copa América. Onana knew, he said, that his future lay elsewhere.

He decided to try his luck in the Netherlands, within a year he had established himself as Ajax’s No 1 goalkeeper. He’s only 19 years old.

The timing couldn’t be better. Ajax, like Barcelona, ​​have a passion for homegrown talent, and their first-team debutants have become the best in a generation. And the skills that Onana forged at Barcelona fit perfectly with his Ajax style of play.

Rapid success followed, as did strong performances against wealthier clubs in European competitions such as the Champions League. In the summer of 2020, a number of those teams began to spin, offering Ajax millions of dollars for their young goalkeeper. Ajax refused to sell, believing that the price of Onana and their other young stars would continue to rise.

And then, like a few years before, it all stopped for Onana when his drug test came back positive. Onana appealed the one-year ban he was given, and European football’s governing body accepted his explanation.

But under the rules of football, he is still liable, and so the sentence, reduced to seven months, means that starting February 2021, Onana has been ostracized from football. When his Ajax teammates lifted the trophy that spring to celebrate the title he had contributed, he was not allowed into the stadium to watch. Cameroon goalkeeper André Onana just wants to play

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