The man who put the brakes on the Azzurri | sports | Hindustan Times
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The man who put the brakes on the Azzurri

sports Updated: Aug 21, 2012 23:25 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
Rohit Bhaskar

Football wingbacks are creatures with distinct physical features, owing to their unenviable job description — running up and down the flanks, providing a key thrust to the attack, and also eliminating the risk of the opposition frontmen. They are usually short and sturdy, think Roberto Carlos, and those massive 60cm thighs (exceptions like the tall, lanky Fabio Grosso, exist, but he was a winger who changed positions on the insistence of coaches).

Cameroon's Nehru Cup captain and right-wingback, Paul Rolland Bebey, is one of the ilk. He's not tall, a little over 5'6, but is built like a bull. What's more, he's also got a take-no-prisoners approach. Just ask Italy and Juventus fantasista Sebastian Giovinco. Bebey was assigned the task of marking the diminutive, speedy Giovinco when Italy took on Cameroon in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in their final Group D match. The dazzling Italian had his moments, but Bebey had the last laugh as Cameroon (which had Premier League players Alex Song and Andre Bikey) held the Italians to a goalless draw and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Ask him, if there was any degree of difficulty in carrying out the task, and he shoots back bluntly, "For Giovinco, maybe. Not for me. This is what I do," he told HT, on the eve of the Nehru Cup.

Aggression, of course, isn't always a boon, even for a hardnosed wingback. Cameroon's quarterfinal opponents were Brazil. Bebey was faced with the exciting prospect of marking Brazilian wizard Ronaldinho. However, his dreams were put to rest even before they took shape as he was suspended for the all-important encounter after picking up two yellow cards in the group stage.

Cameroon held firm for 90 minutes, but Brazil finally got the job done in extra time to seal a 2-0 win.

"It was very disappointing, the chance to mark a player like Ronaldinho doesn't come often. The greater disappointment was we lost," he says.