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Behind the World Cup record: Roger Milla

  • Roger Milla, 42, became the World Cup’s oldest scorer in 1994
  • The Cameroon striker had all but retired five years earlier
  • Presidential pressure & people power led to him making history

“To be honest, I found it so natural that I’m not natural.”

This was how Roger Milla reflected on the extraordinary feats that punctuated his late 30s and early ‘40s. The Cameroonian icon made history at two separate FIFA World Cups, becoming the tournament’s oldest ever goalscorer in 1990 and then breaking his own record four years later at the ripe old age of 42.

In that latter tournament, he was playing alongside and against men who hadn’t even been born when, 21-and-a-half years earlier, he had scored his first international goal in a World Cup qualifier against Zaire. Some of those colleagues and opponents had still been in nappies, in fact, when Milla won his first African Footballer of the Year award in 1976.

But despite those early achievements, and a distinguished club career in France, it was only at an age when most players have long since hung up their boots that the striker became a household name.

The Player
When the Confederation of African Football (CAF) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007, the organisation polled the public for the continent’s best player over those five decades. Milla took home the prize.

Such an honour would have been unthinkable in the late ‘80s, when the journeyman striker – having failed to add to that 1976 African Football of the Year award – retired from the professional game to live and play amateur football on the island of Reunion.

But though Cameroon’s Russian coach, Valeri Nepomniatchi, understandably had no thoughts of calling on this 38-year-old retiree for the 1990 World Cup, that all changed when the…

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