André Onana had a headache. He had landed in the humble hours on a escape back from Bergamo where Ajax had drawn 2-2 with Atalanta and didn ’ t sleep much. When he woke, his head still hurt. Training wasn ’ metric ton for a few hours, so quite than wait until he arrived at De Toekomst, Ajax ’ s training base, he took a paracetamol from the medicine box in the kitchen and got on with it. After the school term he was called to another routine drugs test, his one-third in a week. He didn ’ thymine think anything of it. not then, anyhow. He could be forgiven for think of nothing else since. “ Football is not a game of world, ” Onana says. He has been talking for over an hour and it is the only thing he says in English. He speaks without melodrama or resentment and with a dignity – an acceptance, even – that is disconcerting. It is besides partially practised ; an exercise in emergency, in self-denial and survival. It was October 2020 and it could have been the end. Two days late the analysis arrived, the goalkeeper informed when he was with cameroon : he had tested positivist, one of very few footballers found guilty of dope. Quick Guide

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Was this helpful ? Thank you for your feedback. An international at 20, a Europa League finalist at 21, a Champions League semi-finalist at 23, leader of a bright young Ajax team on course for the entitle, now a enormously promising career seemed on the border of break down. He was 24. It didn ’ t make sense. Ajax ’ mho head executive, Edwin van five hundred Sar, said the penny dropped when they went to Onana ’ south theater and looked through the box : “ then we understood. ” rather of Litacold, he had incidentally taken Lasimac, a Furosemide-based diuretic drug. Prescribed to his wife after giving birth, Furosemide is a banish substance. The blister packs looked the lapp, the pills did besides – little white circles, scantily 6mm in diameter. The tiniest thing, the biggest affect. “ It ’ s incredible : 40mg can destroy a career, ” he says. That ’ randomness Onana ’ second version, and it is one Uefa accepted. They concluded there had been no attack to cheat but banned him anyhow, beginning in February this year. “ I ’ thousand just a number, ” he says. “ They can ’ thyroxine deal shell by font. I think they should but there are rules and the rules are the rules. The doctors said [ Furosemide ] is for water-retention and doesn ’ t benefit you. They recognised it was a genuine mistake but you ’ rhenium responsible for everything in your body. If I buy a bottle of water system that turns out to be contaminated, it ’ randomness my province. If you unintentionally kill person drive, the law says … ” But you didn ’ triiodothyronine kill anyone, I point out. “ Yeah, but you have to be careful, ” Onana replies. “ There ’ s a ‘ minster ’, and he punishes you. It ’ s a homo error. ”Andre Onana celebrates after Ajax open the scoring against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2019 André Onana celebrates after Ajax open the scoring against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2019. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA “ Look, a few days ago something happened, ” Onana adds, referencing the bungled Champions League draw. “ tied the biggest produce mistakes. ” There ’ s a smile but if there ’ s a enticement to tear into Uefa he never succumbs, even though 12 months meant missing “ league, Champions League, cup, Super Cup, an Africa Nations at home ”. A career derailed. In June, the court of arbitration for frolic found “ no significant mistake ” and repress Onana ’ s prison term to nine months, but the affect is felt longer. It is not precisely the games, or even barely the football : there is something barbarous, about revengeful about it, the player as non-person, sequester and alone, the game carrying on without him. They don ’ thyroxine call option, tell you they ’ ll wait, that there is a place when you get back ? “ No, ” Onana says. “ Football ’ s not like that. When you ’ re banned you can ’ metric ton set foot on the [ clubhouse ’ s training ] deliver, can ’ thymine go into the stuffing room. We [ Ajax ] were league champions. I had played 60 % of the games and I wasn ’ metric ton allowed to celebrate it. Some things in life don ’ t depend on you and you equitable have to be matter-of-fact .

The police stopped me in Belgium. I hear one say: ‘This guy takes loads of drugs’

“ ampere soon as we found out, we put together a team. seven people. It ’ s not comfortable to find a bus who ’ s not working. You find your psychologist, a fitness coach, a physio, a dietician, a invest to work, survive. I went to Salou. You have to focus on what ’ s important – the people you love and that love you – and prepare as best you can. ”

He goes on : “ You can ’ t even use the african Nations as motivation, a target, because logic says you won ’ metric ton drive there. Football turns its back. I was just trying to survive, come back better. Try to always see the positive side. But sometimes you can ’ thyroxine. As a goalkeeper it ’ mho difficult : you go, person else plays. There are moments you think about giving in. I was lucky : I have thoroughly people. If that happens and you ’ re alone you ’ re going to give up. You won ’ metric ton have the will to go through it. “ It ’ s the way you ’ ra perceived, besides. It ’ second ‘ doping ’ : you ’ re a ‘ drug addict ’. How are you going to explain to your parents that you ’ ve tested positive when you ’ ve never smoked or drunk ? ” Onana draws a pronounce on his brow. “ How do you get rid of this here ? There will inactive be people who think [ I ’ meter guilty ]. People don ’ t always have time to be informed. The police stopped me in Belgium. The normal thing : ‘ Documents ? ’ When I show my identity calling card, one of them recognises me. ‘ Mr Onana, get out of the car. ’ They check the solid car. The whole thing. I hear one say : ‘ This ridicule takes loads of drugs. ’ ”Ajax, without Onana, celebrate their Eredivisie championship in May Ajax, without Onana, celebrate their Eredivisie championship in May. Photograph: SCS/Sander Chamid/AFLO/Shutterstock Onana bursts out laughing. “ That did hurt. I ’ thousand laughing now but the lone reason I didn ’ t end up in a competitiveness is they were policemen. If not, I ’ megabyte getting out and … ” Onana puts his fists up. “ Where are you going with that written here ? ” he continues, signalling his question again. “ I ’ ve come binding but if it happens to person less solid mentally it would be very unmanageable. ” Onana is hard, all correct. He has had to be. Born in the bantam village of Nkol Ngok, population barely 400, he was discovered at a competition run by the Samuel Eto ’ o foundation in Yaoundé, joined Barcelona at 14, sleep in a bedroom inside Camp Nou, went to Ajax at 18. football, he admits, can be a solitary confinement game, players scared. “ But it ’ second our caper. We ’ ra here to ‘ entertain ’ the people. It seems [ people think ] we don ’ t have feelings sometimes. ” He tells of his fear upon reaching the Europa League concluding still a “ kid ” and the defend from Van five hundred Sar. “ I couldn ’ metric ton have had a better godfather, ” he says. “ Goalkeeper is a deceptive position. From the outside, you can ’ thymine understand how much pressure there is. An case : Stockholm, the Europa League final. six months earlier I ’ five hundred been second-team custodian, in grounds of 3,000. It ’ s one game. Against [ Manchester ] United. The recoil. The whole world watching. I get there and tell the coach I can ’ metric ton play, I don ’ metric ton feel correct. Van five hundred Sar gives an interview : ‘ Tell André I haven ’ thymine brought gloves, so he plays. ’ I wake up and see that. That in truth helped me. “ We lost because we were very young. This guy is ill, that one doesn ’ triiodothyronine palpate well, we ’ re all looking at the floor, scared. But we lone lost on humble details and after I said to myself : never again will I feel fear in football. That helped me handle the press in the years that followed. ” Which didn ’ t make them slowly. When Ajax were denied a put in the 2019 Champions League final in the most grievous of circumstances against Tottenham, he says Amsterdam felt like it was in “ the second world war : no one talked, everyone cried ” and he still couldn ’ thymine state you who scored in the final. He was on a flight determined not to know. It hurt excessively a lot. “ But you learn, you grow stronger. ” Onana says .Onana trains on his own in Salou Onana trains on his own in Salou. Photograph: No credit In November, ban served, he played for Cameroon against Malawi and the Ivory Coast and for Ajax against Besiktas, reward for his resistance, a new start. immediately he has joined Common Goal, collaborating with a project for blind orphans in his native state. “ I can ’ metric ton change their lives wholly but possibly I can help them be a little happy. After the year I ’ ve had I wanted to end with a good palpate. ” There is a sense of beginning again, cruelty overcome if never gone, opportunity ahead, that solitary confinement work worthwhile. In the summer, he will join Internazionale and he is available for the hosts of adjacent calendar month ’ mho Africa Cup of Nations. The Cas predominate gave him a probability, although inactiveness means nothing is guaranteed. In his absence Remko Pasveer became Ajax ’ s first choice and three games is not much planning. “ The coach can constantly say : ‘ Listen, the other guy is playing regularly, and you … ’ ” Onana says. “ If I play it ’ s an honor. It was strange play again ; I was nervous. But it depends what you ’ ve been doing for nine months. I was ready from the first day.

The fiver : sign up and get our casual football e-mail. “ Football is a ‘ plot ’, but when there is so much at stake there ’ s not much humanness. Being banned is not a full thing but you learn so much, find out who in truth matters in your life. It helped me work on early aspects : more time to train, watch it back, make corrections. When I returned, I got on the scales, shirt off, and they said : ‘ Bloody hell, you didn ’ triiodothyronine spirit like that when you went away. ’ They ’ re happy for me. A lot said : ‘ André, if that happened to me, I would have let myself go ’. But when it gets sturdy you have to get even tougher. ”