Soccer in Cameroon used to be the only thing that when Cameroonians grumbled about the inertia in government, corruption, interrupted electricity supply and shortage of water, they turned to for solace. Today, it has joined the list of some of the shameful vices that prick the bitter biles of Cameroonians.
At the weekend, Cape Verde, a dark horse in soccer, stripped the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon of their “indomitability” with a humiliating 3-1 defeat. It is part of the qualifying matches for the Total Africa Cup
of Nations, AFCON. Cameroon is slated to host the event next year. The victory is the first for Cape Verde in the group after four consecutive draws. They move to seven points, two ahead of third place Rwanda and have destiny in their own hands heading into the final match day on Tuesday.
They will be away to bottom placed Mozambique in the final round of matches where they will need to win to confirm their qualification. A draw might be risky if Rwanda pull off a win away to Cameroon as the Eastern Africans have a better goal aggregate.
There might be no alarm in the Cameroon camp as the Lions automatically qualify as hosts and continue to lead the group with 10 points three more than Cape Verde. The ominous writing on the wall however is that such a poor performance doesn’t give hope to fans that they will clinch the cup after another humiliation at the African Championship tournament CHAN early this year.
In recent times, Cameroon soccer management has been rocked with boardroom squabbles, mismanagement, court cases and illegality. The FIFA normalisation committees have failed to resolve and the government is helpless since FIFA makes sports management an independent organ. Even in the heat of CHAN, the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS, ruled that the current executive of FECAFOOT is illegal.
It was that executive which took the indomitable Lions to the last AFCON with head coach and assist Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert. The Lions struggled just to scrape to the eighth final in Egypt where they were pushed out of the competition. In rage, the Sports Ministry fired the trainers and appointed the former Portuguese footballer, Antonio Conceicao as the new head coach of the Indomitable Lions.
The new trainer’s last job was at a hardly known club in Romania. To assist him is former Cameroon international, Francois Omam Biyik, who played at three World Cups and helped the Indomitable Lions win the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations.
Another former Cameroon international, Jacques Songo’o, was appointed as the national team’s goalkeeping coach.
The trainers led by Conceicao was assigned to lead Cameroon at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil as well as secure qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It is the first time the head coach will be taking charge of a national team and he has no previous experience in Africa with all of his former coaching jobs having been in Europe and the Middle East.
Conceicao’s appointment was criticised with questions dangling over his qualification and experience plus the haste with which his predecessor was shown the red card. The Dutch duo who had been at work for 10 months but still had six others to complete their contracts complained against Cameroon to FIFA demanding almost a billion FCFA for breach of contract. FECAFOOT argued they were paid two of the six months.
In its ruling FIFA ordered that Seedorf be paid 206 Million FCFA and Kluivert his assistant 191 Million FCFA. International media reports say the Ministry of Sports and Physical Education has quietly paid the penalty.
It isn’t the first time ex-Indomitable Lions’ trainers that have received hefty compensations for unlawful termination of their contracts with the only difference in this case being the fact that Seedorf and Kluivert have simply been paid for the rest of their six months contracts with Cameroon plus penalty for delay in payments.
Isn’t that money that would have been used to ameliorate sports infrastructure in Cameroon. Is mismanaging and in-fighting or egoistic trappings between FECAFOOT and the Cameroon Professional Football League, LFPC, responsible for the poor management causing Cameroonian tax payers millions in court cases? How does FECAFOOT expect good results when it is unable to have an executive that brings all the stakeholders together in legality and elections seen to be credible, fair and transparent?
Some of those in the mire of in the inept management of the country’s soccer have been heard complaining that the disgraceful result in Cape Verde was “due to the wind”! Some groan that a few players were not released from France. Egypt was not as windy as Cape Verde, Limbe was not an Island, yet Cameroon had a 4-0 spanking from Morocco.
Cameroon soccer managers at FECAFOOT, LFPC, ministry must take responsibility for their rancorous management of the game, appointment of trainers with questionable credentials and the recruitment of players without discrimination or subterranean influence. AFCON is just at the corner and if they continue to dribble fans with conceited excuses to justify failure rather than concede their ineptitude in management, the country may just end up doing worst than it had at CHAN. Is that what the country needs after spending all the billions to prepare for AFCON 2021?