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Bulls Abroad: Hassan Ndam joins Cameroon U-23 squad

Congratulations, Hassan!

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls officially announced they had eight players on international duty this November. But it turns out there is a ninth Bull abroad: center-back Hassan Ndam is a late arrival to the Cameroon U-23 training camp.

Allez Les Lions broke the news, providing photographic evidence of Ndam’s presence with the Indomitable Lions U-23s.

Cameroon’s U-23s are seeking to qualify for the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations, which will be held in Egypt next November. The top three teams at that competition will qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics men’s soccer tournament. But there is a long way to go before the Indomitable Lions can start realistically thinking about Tokyo.

First, there are three rounds of qualifying to get through just to make it to the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Egypt. Cameroon’s first round opponent in qualifying is Chad, with a home-and-away series to be played during the current November window for international games. The Indomitable Lions host the first leg in Yaounde on November 16; Chad hosts the second leg in N’Djamena on November 20. The winner of the series advances to play Sierre Leone in another home-and-away series, to be played in March. The winner of that series will play a third round of qualifying in June against either Uganda, South Sudan, or Tunisia. And the winner of that series gets to go to Egypt.

Ndam joins a squad coached by Rigobert Song, Cameroon’s most-capped player. Song was only announced as the U-23s’ head coach last month, but has apparently put a lot of effort into recruiting players to join the team’s Olympic-qualifying effort. The highest-profile of a number of foreign-based prospects to join the Cameroon U-23s camp this month is arguably Bayern Munich’s Franck Evina, who played for Germany’s U-18s last November. But MLS-watchers may be familiar with at least a couple of other players on the roster: Philadelphia Union’s Oliver Mbaizo and former Union midfielder Eric Ayuk (now signed with Osmanlispor in Turkey) are also in Cameroon’s camp for the Chad series.

Ndam has not appeared to be on Cameroon’s radar since joining RBNY in 2017, though he did reportedly get looks from the Indomitable Lions U-17 and U-20 teams as a youth player. The 20-year-old has recently completed his second full season with NYRB II in USL, and was a 2018 finalist for the US second division’s Young Player of the Year award.

It perhaps didn’t hurt Ndam’s chances of being remembered by his national team that former Arsenal, Barcelona, and Cameroon midfielder Alex Song trained with RBNY earlier this year. Alex is Rigobert Song’s nephew. Maybe he mentioned an exciting center-back prospect in the Red Bulls’ ranks to his uncle.

Ndam is not expected to start against Chad on November 16 - the match seems likely to be a little too early for a late arrival to the squad. But Allez Les Lions notes that Ndam’s regular playing time in the recently-concluded USL season means his fitness should not be in question. Perhaps he’ll get his chance for the U-23s in N’Djamena on November 20.

Tip of the hat to Red Bulls News Network’s Steve Toto for bringing this to the RBNY faithful’s attention.