Labelled the best African footballer of the 20th century, Cameroon star striker Roger Milla rose to worldwide fame when he scored four goals at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy and captured the hearts of millions with his celebratory corner-flag dancing.
After scoring the goals, which led Cameroon to the Quarter Finals stages - a first for an African nation at that time - he was also the oldest player and goal scorer at a World Cup, before the record was beaten four years later - by Mila himself!
At the 1994 World Cup, Milla, aged 42, scored a decisive goal to draw level against a very good England side. Although England won the game, Milla endeared himself to the world with his energetic as a substitute as well as his dancing goal celebrations at the corner flag, also seen at the 1990 World Cup.
Though it was at the World Cups that Mila found international stardom, he was already a household name across Africa and known for his career in numerous European teams well before the ‘90s tournaments.
His career included playing for prestigious clubs such as Montpellier and Monaco. Mila was a prolific striker whose ability to read the game, position himself to take advantage of play and remain graceful under pressure, was highly regarded throughout his career and regardless of his age. Even today Milla is a figurehead for African football and is often greeted fondly at any World Cup competitions by fans across the world.
Milla, who retired in 1996 after a successful career and is now Itinerant Ambassador of Cameroon, visited Expo 2020 which included a tour of the Cameroon Pavilion in the Opportunity District, where he met officials from the pavilion and a number of fans.
How has your experience been so far at Expo?
I want to thank first of all the host country, the United Arab Emirates, [and] thanks to the city of Dubai that [has] welcomed me very well. And then thanks to God, to our Consul General and his Deputy for the very warm welcome they have given me here in Dubai.
What do you think of the Cameroon Pavilion?
I just arrived to the pavilion of Cameroon, [and] already all the products I see, I think it is really from the Cameroon. The Cameroon that produces extraordinary things for its youth. Everything I saw here, the masks … the coffee, this is the real Cameroon.
Your son currently plays football in the UAE – can you tell us about that?
My son is only 15 years old. He still has an apprenticeship with [Fursan Hispania Academy Dubai Founder and former Real Madrid/Spain defender Míchel] Salgado. I hope that by the next year or two, he will be like his father and will be able to play for his country.
How can football help make the world a better place?
Football is part of sport, and therefore when you are a footballer, you are there to improve the conditions of sport in general. Sport includes all other disciplines and therefore football is perhaps the king of sport. But this king of sports must be improved in many countries so that it can reign.
By Delroy Constantine-Simms and Marlon Weir