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COME ON IRELAND: We'll ROON your big day; IRISH-BASED LIONS FANS WARN MICK.

CAMEROONS living in Ireland last night warned that the football stars of their native country will ruin Ireland's World Cup dream.

Deyo "Pascal" Lacene, 24, a former professional footballer who used to play with some of the members of the Cameroon team, is certain his home nation will beat Ireland tomorrow.

He said: "We believe our team is the best in Africa. We have faith and belief in Cameroon.

"Nigeria's victory over Ireland has shown them a little of what to expect in the World Cup."

Pascal said the Cameroon fans are not impressed by Ireland's style of football.

He added: "Irish soccer is like the way Cameroon football was played 20 years ago - all kick and run, like the English style.

"Ireland's defence is suspect and prone to Cameroon's skillful wingers. When the pressure is on, the defence will panic and go down."

On the other hand The Cameroon Lions, he believes, play a more flowing, passing game.

He said: "We have seen this kick and run football before. We can adapt well to the other team."

Pascal respects the Irish team's desire to win, but said the Roy Keane affair was "very sad" and believes the former captain will be sorely missed by the Green Army.

He is one of 300 Cameroons in Ireland, and is delighted that both his native and adopted countries have made it to the finals in the Far East.

Pascal's professional football career came to an end when "political trouble'' drove him into hiding and then to Ireland.

He is an asylum seeker who has been in Dublin for the past year.

Back in Cameroon, he played with his hometown club Racing Bafoussam and he has played international football at youth level.

Pascal hopes that he will be able to resurrect his playing career in Ireland. The former soccer pro is proud of the other young players he played alongside, who are about to be part of the greatest soccer competition in the world.

He said: "Playing in the World Cup, of course, is the dream of any footballer. They will do very well."

Pascal spends his time between his flat in Phibsboro, Dublin and his pals at a gym on the city's Moore Street.

He will meet with friends from both countries tomorrow morning to watch the big game on the television.

Pascal intends to wear Cameroon's national colours of green, red and yellow and cheer on his team while his Irish pals support the Boys in Green. Although he believes the Lions will beat Mick McCarthy's men in Niigata tomorrow, Pascal thinks both Ireland and Cameroon can qualify from Group E for the next stage of the tournament.

Pascal and his pals believe Damien Duff is the biggest threat to Cameroon in the opening game.

His friend John Aigbirio, a barber, said: "That man is good.''

And he believes this is the most open tournament for years. He said: "The World Cup is another reality. It doesn't matter about history, about who is the best team in Europe or Africa. You can't say France or Brazil will win."

Pascal has fond memories of the legendary Irish team in the 1990 World Cup in Italy - the side he supported after his home country.

That year Cameroon and Ireland reached the quarter final stages and Pascal believes the current Lions side can go further.

Pascal said the Cameroon team has an ideal blend of youth and experience and huge self-belief.

He said: "Older, former players give the younger players conviction and belief and faith.

"In 1998, Nigeria came and had great hopes, but they messed up.

"But the current Cameroon team is very, very good. Many players have experience in this competition."

Dublin has a small, mostly French-speaking Cameroon community.

Less than 300 Cameroon people have applied for asylum here since 1999. Many meet every Sunday to discuss issues arising from their lives in Ireland.

Pascal said everyone back home will be glued to the World Cup.

He said: "When the team arrives on the field, everyone gets behind them - everyone from young people to the President.

"Cameroon is a very rich and beautiful country. At the moment the politics and security are not good.

"The government can take everything, but the team belongs to the people."

CAPTION(S):

HAT TRICKS: Organisers David Coleman, Ken Darmody and Alan Doyle get in the mood for their World Cup bash in Dublin yesterday; OUT OF AFRICA: Pascal and his friends are hoping for a Cameroon victory
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 31, 2002
Words:751
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