Didier Ovono, long-time goalkeeper for the Gabonese national team, has announced his retirement from international football at the age of 34. In an interview with Jeune Afrique, he said that he wanted to make this decision in order to “allow younger players to come through”.
Ovono made his international debut with Gabon back in 2003, and played over 100 matches with the team over the course of a decade and a half. He was the starting keeper for Gabon’s Africa Cup of Nations teams in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017. In his retirement interview, he expressed his gratitude for being a part of the national team, saying, “I have given a lot to my country, which has also given me a lot. It was an honor to play for Gabon.”
Ovono has also had a long club career, beginning his professional career with Petro Sport Port-Gentil, a local Gabonese club, in 1999. He had also been a part of the Salvadoran club Alianza FC, the Portuguese club FC Pacos de Ferreira and the Georgian club Dinamo Tbilisi during his journeyman phase in the 2000s. By the 2010s, when he had improved enough to be considered a starting-caliber keeper for international competition, he had long tenures with Ligue 1’s Le Mans and KV Oostende of the Belgian Pro League. He was with the latter team until this year, when Oostende signed another goalkeeper to replace Ovono during his participation in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. As Ovono put it, “I returned from Gabon and went from number one to third choice; it was difficult and frustrating to watch the games from the bench or the stands.” Ovono said that his priority right now is to find another team, citing his desire to establish himself with a club as a factor in his retirement from international competition.