World Cup Classics: Cameroon ’90

As we countdown towards Qatar 2022, we’re taking a look at some of the shirts that still stir those little butterflies in the tummy, beginning with this classic Cameroon shirt from Italia ’90.

What makes a classic football shirt is clearly a matter of personal taste.

Some football shirt aficionados will roll there eyes and say this is just another adidas template and point out that Egypt wore a very similar design in the same tournament.

Some might say that the unconventional placement and execution of that massive lion of a crest leaves a lot to be desired, whilst others will favour Cameroon’s later catalogue of infamous outfits.

But doesn’t that kind of football shirt snobbery miss the point and take away from the romance and beautiful memories of that joyful summer?

Cameroon, Italia '90, adidas, shirt, kit
Cameroon’s 1990 World Cup shirt by adidas

Few fancied the Indomitable Lions to get anything from a World Cup group containing holders Argentina, Romania and the USSR.

That’s because aside from their unbeaten record of 3 draws at Spain ’82, few people knew anything about Cameroon, or how they were about to joyfully kick their way into our global consciousness.

The opening game of the tournament pitted them against Argentina.

Whilst there were certainly those who delighted in seeing Diego Maradona and Claudio Caniggia being given a right good kicking at the San Siro, it was hardly a game for the purists.

Despite the odds, the nine-men of Cameroon won 1-0 thanks to a goal from François Omam-Biyik.

Cameroon’s full kit with first choice yellow socks

The size of the upset, despite the violent challenges, cannot and should not be understated.

It wasn’t just Cameroon who had established themselves on the global stage that afternoon, this was a wake up call for football’s so-called elite nations that African sides would no longer be a pushover.

Next up was a trip to Bari where Roger Milla was about to light up the tournament, coming off the bench to score both goals in a 2-1 win over Romania.

With their place in the last-sixteen assured, they lost 4-0 to USSR, but after topping their group, Cameroon travelled to Naples where the evergreen and ever-ready Milla struck twice to send Colombia home.

The Indomitable Lions wore yellow shirts and green socks for the defeat to the USSR

It’s that joyful memory of Milla dancing by the corner flag having robbed the ball off of Rene Higuita that encapsulates what that side meant to fans and neutrals.

The veteran striker was by now one of the stars of the tournament and gunning for the Golden Boot.

Whilst there can always be tournament dark horses, with satellite coverage of games across the globe and the internet providing bountiful data on professional players in every league imaginable, those magical World Cup surprise packages like Cameroon and Roger Milla are becoming a thing of the past.

Roger Milla was an Italia ’90 icon

With Higuita, Valderama and friends dispatched and on their way home, Cameroon stayed in Naples to face England in the Quarter-Finals.

After David Platt’s headed opener, England were rattled by 2 second half goals and were just seven minutes away from exiting the tournament before Gary Lineker levelled from the spot and converted a second penalty in extra-time, to finish the game 3-2 and see the Three Lions progress to the Semis.

Cameroon were out, but not before winning a vast legion of new admirers.

Aside from their largely forgotten away strip seen against USSR, that summer’s drama took place in that shiny, green shirt with adidas’ thin tonal stripes and that huge yellow lion placed to the left of the heart.

The full kit in green, red and yellow reflected the flag of the country and with the exception of swapping yellow socks for green against Colombia, it is those colours we most closely associate with Cameroon.

The memories stirred by a football shirt are arguably as important as the design itself and with names from that side still sending shudders down the back of our necks more than 30 years later, would Italia ’90 really have been the same without this kit?

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