A legendary goalkeeper


After hanging up his boots, Tommy N’Kono sought training at Marcet with the aim of coaching a First Division team.

It’s one thing to know, and another to teach. A competent football player should have the humility to recognize this difference. Transmitting your own knowledge in the correct and most effective way is anything but a mechanical process. Achieving anything at all requires the right training, and Tommy N’Kono knows this all too well. Consequently, one of the most renowned legends of African football decided to join the Marcet project after concluding his time on the pitch as an athlete. His eyes were set on coaching a First Division team. Something he would, in time, achieve.

His European adventure began back in 1982, coincidently in Spain. Cameroon had qualified for the final phase of the World Cup and N’Kono was in charge of defending Africa’s goal. His performance would keep him in Barcelona a while longer. Once the competition was over, Espanyol signed him onto their team.

Tommy N'Kono defendiendo la portería del RCD Espanyol en los años 80.
Tommy N’Kono playing for RCD Espanyol in the ’80s.

The Cameroonian goalkeeper stayed in Barcelona for eight seasons, becoming one of the most prominent players in the history of RCD Espanyol, with which he played a total of 249 games. To this day, the only foreign footballer that has spent more time at Espanyol than him is Mauricio Pochettino. Time well spent and accounted for by the consecutive total of 496 minutes N’kono kept his goal safeguarded.

All the while, N’Kono became nothing short of a legend in his own country. Not only because of his victory at the 1984 African Cup but because six years later he starred in one of Cameroonian football’s most successful pages in its history on a visit to Italy. The ‘lions’ reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup led by Espanyol’s goalkeeper and their striker Roger Milla, aged 33 and 38 respectively, achieving the highest result ever obtained by an African team in a World Cup.

Right after the Italian World Cup, N’Kono left Espanyol and – after having played at Sabadell and Hospitalet – spent the last of his athletic career in Club Bolívar, breaking yet another record: 761 minutes without letting through any goals. After retiring, he began to work as a technician, achieving a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Tommy N'Kono, durante un entrenamiento en su etapa en la Academia de Alto Rendimiento Marcet.
Tommy N’Kono during a training session in Marcet High Performance Academy.

It was then that N’Kono turned up at Marcet’s High-Performance Academy with the purpose of one day training a first division team. “At Marcet, I managed to improve my knowledge about grassroots teaching. I learned how to connect with kids, both personally and psychologically. This is something that was very important for me, as it allowed me to take training a step further and start working towards getting involved with a first division team like Espanyol,” the goalkeeper comments in the following video, where he also encourages young and aspiring goalkeepers to participate in Marcet’s Goalkeepers Championship

During his time at the High-Performance Academy, N’Kono worked side by side with Luis Llopis, contributing to the training of successful goalkeepers such as Edu Frías, Germán Vargas and Miquel Colldecarrera. It is not surprising that his students have come so far since Espanyol’s former goalkeeper has been an example for Gianluigi Buffon himself. The Juventus goalkeeper confessed that the first time football brought him to tears was when Cameroon was eliminated from Italy’s World Cup, no doubt because N’Kono was his idol. An idol for thousands of young footballers around the world who are following his example.

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