Ajax goalkeeper André Onana, coveted by half of Europe, talks to Spanish media Marca. After testing positive for "human error", he served a nine-month suspension.
André Onana (born 2-4-1996 in Nkol Ngok) landed in Barcelona in his childhood by the ticket of Samuel Eto'o and his foundation. In the ranks of Ajax, he has become one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. However, he committed a "human error" that led him to test positive during a doping test. Today, taking advantage of his membership in "Common Goal", he returns in MARCA on the ordeal he lived… looking to the future with optimism.
You're back at Ajax, 297 days later! How do you feel?
I feel good. I'm happy to feel like a footballer again and I'm very excited. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
How it happened, narrated by André Onana
Let's go back to October 2020. What happened?
We had just played with Atalanta and drew (2-2) in a very intense match. We arrived in the early hours of the morning and I woke up with a headache. I went to take a drug that I had been prescribed (Litacol), but my wife, who had just given birth, had a similar pill (Lasimac) that is used for water retention and I took it by accident. That day, I was the first to take doping control and go home.
When a month later, while I was in Cameroon, I was told that the test was positive, I told the doctor: "You must have made a mistake. I've done more than 23 tests in my career." When he told me I had tested positive for furosemide, I said, "What is it? It was my wife who said to me: "André, these are the pills that the doctor prescribed".
What did she think then?
Damn it, you got into a hell of a mess for a stupid mistake.' UEFA has acknowledged that this is an unintentional mistake, that this pill does not help you improve your performance. Football and life are not easy. These mistakes are punished and I had to pay the price. You learn from everything. I am happy to be back and I want to warn elite athletes to be careful, because mistakes are not accepted in our work. You are responsible for everything that goes into your body. If you drink contaminated water, it's your fault. It is difficult, but it is the law and I had to serve my sentence.
UEFA has acknowledged that this is an unintentional mistake, that the pill does not help you improve your performance, but in our business we do not accept mistakes… and I had to serve my sentence.André Onana
You insist that you have tested positive… but you didn't dope.
That's right, I was at the top of my career! I had been voted the best goalkeeper in the Eredivisie four times, I was among the best in the world… What to improve for? To be the best on the planet?
I was at the best moment of my career! I didn't need to take anything. To improve, what for? To be the best on the planet?André Onana
The CAS admitted that you had committed "no significant fault" and reduced your penalty from 12 to 9 months. Do you think it's still excessive?
I thought it was outrageous. A goalkeeper doesn't run, I have to stop, and I tested positive for a weight loss pill when I had no fluid to hold. The CAS reduced the penalty because it realized it was a bit unfair. It was too much time for a pill that does nothing.
The CAS reduced the penalty because it realized it was a bit unfair. It was too much time for a pill that brings nothing.André Onana
How to get out of this lookout
How were those nine months without being able to play or train with your teammates?
I couldn't train with any qualified coach! I had to survive, endure and train on my own. I had to build a strong team of 17 people to become the goalkeeper I was again: physical trainer, goalkeeper coach, psychologist? It wasn't easy, but thanks to God and them, we did it.
How to deal with such a "blow" from a psychological point of view?
Is it amazing how a 40 milligram pill can destroy your life, your career, tarnish your image? Psychologically, it's very hard. I thought, "How can I tell my parents that I tested positive for doping when I've never smoked or drunk in my life? People talk about doping, but what I took, I insist, was a pill for water retention. I made a human mistake… ? It was so hard that sometimes I even doubted myself. I saw everything that came out in the press and thought, "Would I be a drug addict? You learn from it and it makes you stronger. You realize that there is no humanity in football. For some people, we are robots and we have no right to fail.
It's amazing how, for a 40-milligram pill, you can destroy your life… It was so hard that sometimes I would even doubt myself and think, "Would I be a drug addict? There is no humanity in footballAndré Onana
Back with Cameroon and its club
On November 13, you finally came back to play for Cameroon.
To play again was like being reborn. In Cameroon, they supported me from the first minute and when I came back, I didn't expect to play, but the coach told me: "André, you are my warrior and I know you will qualify me [for the third round of the World Cup in Africa]. I thought, "Wow, I haven't played in nine months! I hope I can give him back the confidence he gives me." It worked well.
You are also back at Ajax… but for now you are Pasveer's understudy. How do you live this new role?
I'm coming back from a tough year and I'm here to help the team in any way I can. Feeling like an elite footballer again is the best thing ever. If I end up playing, it's perfect; otherwise, I will be a support and I will give the best of myself. Pasveer is a great teammate and a friend, we get along very well and I really enjoy the daily life, I missed him.Feeling like an elite footballer again is the best, that's all I wanted.
Ajax qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League with a total of points, 20 goals scored and 5 conceded. I don't know if it's too pretentious? Can you dream of winning it?
We have to believe in this Ajax, we are capable of winning the Champions League.
I don't know [laughs]. I appreciate it as much as I enjoyed the last one. We had a very good group for 4-5 years. Comparisons will be made when the course is completed. It's too early now. There is a long way to go. In 2019 we made history and this year we can do it again.
His next destination
Let's change the subject. Your contract expires in June, you have not renewed your contract with Ajax and there is a lot of talk about Inter. Where does your future lie?
Today, after almost seven years, I think it's time to take a step forward, leave and make room for others. Ajax always gives opportunities to young players and there are a lot of goalkeepers in the youth academy waiting for this chance. I have to go. Where, I don't know, but I need something new to compete against the best goalkeepers.
Today, after almost seven years, I think it's time to take a step forward, leave and make room for others. Where, I don't know, but I need something new to compete against the best goalkeepers.André Onana
There is the African Cup in Cameroon in 2022, what are you waiting for?
Being a host is a plus. My country is like Germany. We have a winning mentality. We play in our own stadiums and the Cup must be ours.