What happened between Andre Onana and Rigobert Song? Cameroon row at 2022 World Cup explained

Andre Onana has headed to Ivory Coast to represent his nation, Cameroon, at the Africa Cup of Nations. 

Onana played in both of Manchester United’s previous two games against Wigan and Tottenham Hotspur before flying to west Africa for Cameroon’s opening clash with Guinea — although he actually failed to make in time to be selected in the squad.

When the goalkeeper signed for Erik ten Hag back in the summer it was unclear whether he would miss any games because of the tournament’s schedule. Onana had retired from international football following a huge spat with manager Rigobert Song at the Qatar World Cup. The pair did, however, settle their differences and Onana announced his return to the national team in September.

Things have not gone well this month, though. Cameroon were beaten 3-1 by Senegal on matchday two as Onana conceded from the three shots he faced. He was then dropped for the crucial final group game against Gambia on January 23.

If Cameroon are knocked out of the group stages, it would mean Onana may return in time for United’s fifth-round FA Cup tie against Newport County. Even if they go through, it remains to be seen whether Onana will be able to win back his place in the team.

But why did the star keeper and manager fall out in Qatar? The Sporting News explains.

MORE: Who has scored the most goals so far at AFCON?

What happened between Andre Onana and Rigobert Song?

Onana flew home early during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a disagreement with the Cameroon manager over tactics. Rigobert Song claimed Onana had asked him to be left out of the last two group games against Serbia and Brazil and the keeper left camp and announced his retirement from international football at just 26 years old. 

Onana released a statement explaining his side of the story.

“I want to express my affection for my country and the national team,” he wrote.

“Yesterday I was not allowed to be on the ground to help Cameroon, as I always do, to achieve the team’s goals. I always behaved in a way to lead the team to success in a good manner.

“I have put all my efforts and energy into finding solutions to a situation that a footballer often experiences, but there has been no will on the other side.

“Some moments are difficult to assimilate. However, I always respect and support the decisions of the people in charge of pursuing the success of our team and country.

“I extend all my strength to my team-mates because we demonstrated that we are capable of going very far in this competition.

“The values that I promote as a person and as a player are the ones that identify me, and that my family has given me since my childhood. Representing Cameroon has always been a privilege. The nation first and forever.”

Song was then asked about the situation in a press conference during the World Cup, where he said he had to put his team first instead of individuals. 

A few months down the line saw Onana go back on his decision to retire after reportedly putting aside his differences with Song.

Song explained his decision to bring the United goalkeeper back into the squad: “It all depended on him. He knew what he had to do. If he’s on the list, it’s because he did the right thing. He’s one of the best goalkeepers, the door was always open. There was never a problem with Andre. Today, we are satisfied that he is reunited with the group.”

AFCON 2024 round dates, schedule

AFCON 2024 schedule
Round Date
Group Stage  January 13-24, 2024
Round of 16 January 27-30, 2024
Quarterfinal February 2-3, 2024
Semifinal February 7, 2024
Third place playoff February 10, 2024
Final February 11, 2024

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