World Football Star Roger Milla: The Ageless African

Kris KlassenCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2009

24 Jun 1994:  Roger Milla of Cameroon in action during the World Cup match against Brazil at the Stanford Stadium in San Francisco, California, USA. Brazil won the match 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: David  Cannon/Allsport

Roger Milla is a former soccer forward from Cameroon. He was one of the first African players to be a major star on the international stage and played for the Cameroon national team in three World Cups.

What is so compelling about him is that he did not achieve stardom until age 38 at the 1990 World Cup.

He was a member of Cameroon's team at the 1982 World Cup, having a goal disallowed against Peru in their first match. Cameroon were eliminated with three draws from their three first-round games, although they did shock the world by holding eventual champions Italy to a tie.

Two years later, he was part of the squad competing at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He first retired from international soccer in 1987.

However, in 1990, he received a phone call from the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, who pleaded with him to come out of retirement and rejoin the national team. He agreed, and went to Italy with the "Indomitable Lions" for the 1990 World Cup.

The 38-year-old Milla emerged as one of the tournament's major stars at the 1990 World Cup. He scored four goals, celebrating each one with a dance around the corner flag that has become a popular goal celebration since.

Two of his goals came against Romania in Cameroon's second game, and two more came in extra time against Colombia in the last 16 to carry Cameroon to the quarterfinals—the furthest an African team has ever advanced at the World Cup (Senegal matched this feat in 2002).

In the quarterfinal match against England, Milla confirmed his super-sub legend, entering in the second half with Cameroon trailing 1-0 and setting up a brilliant goal as well as drawing a penalty shot to give Cameroon the lead before eventually losing.

Milla returned to the 1994 World Cup at the age of 42, being the oldest player to ever appear in a World Cup. Cameroon was knocked out in the group stages but Milla scored a goal against Russia setting a record as the oldest goal scorer in a World Cup tournament.

To be able to play and be one of the best at his age is nothing short of sensational. In soccer, physical fitness is everything and he can only be desribed as a true "freak of nature."

One of the things that was so enjoyable about watching him play was his child-like enthusiasm. Even in his 40's he celebrated his goals like they were the first of his long illustrious career.

He is now an ambassador for African causes. In 2004, he was selected as one of the greatest 125 living soccer players by Pele. In 2006, Milla was chosen as the top African player of the last century by the African Soccer Association.

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