Editorial: FECAFOOT; Dribbling with scandals, debts, court cases!.

When Samuel Eto'o Fils was elected President of Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT, in December 2021, he pledged to return Cameroon football to the glorious era.

He dangled a wide range of reforms to revive the game. 

“We have to bring footballers to the centre of our policies. It is our role to ensure that those who play this discipline make a decent living out of it,” he had said. 

But more than two years on the job, it has been a litany of scandals, court cases from CAF, FIFA to CAS and a crushing mountain of debts that have combined to under-develop the game.

The most recent scandal rocking the country's football has been a stand-up between Eto'o Fils' FECAFOOT management and that of another soccer legend, Joseph Antoine Bell.

After the African Nations Cup tournament Cameroon hosted in five cities in early 2022, there were fears that the stadiums and other facilities would be left to decay.

President Paul Biya, by presidential decree of August 2022, created the Steering Committee of the National Office of Infrastructure and Sports Equipment, known by its French acronym, ONIES, with Bell as the boss.

The decree makes it a public entity with financial and management autonomy. Its mission is to ensure “the upkeep, maintenance, operation, security, the development and sustainability of sports infrastructure and equipment, as well as specific related facilities created or fitted out by the State”, as stipulated by the decree.

Its main source of finance will come from collecting rents for matches played in the stadium. It would appear FECAFOOT, however, has not been living up to that obligation and like a shylock landlord, ONIES last week refused to open its facilities for FECAFOOT matches.

"In fact, some four games were delayed after ONIES denied FECAFOOT access to the Bamendzi Stadium in Bafoussam, the Mbouda Municipal Stadium, the Military Stadium in Yaounde and the Annex of the Reunifications Stadium in Douala", The Guardian Post reported.

The interruption notably led to a delay in the start of the game pitting Gazelle Football Association of Garoua and Victoria United Football Club of Limbe, at the Annex of the Reunification Stadium.

The game, which was originally scheduled for 2:00 p.m., finally kicked off 30 minutes after. The delay affected the second match that was also scheduled for the same venue, pitting Yong Sports Academy of Bamenda and Dynamo of Douala.

A similar disruption was experienced at the Military Stadium in Yaounde, when a delay in the first match of the venue led to the second game between UMS of Loum and Apejes of Mfou running into the night and later getting disrupted by power cuts. 

Speaking to reporters later, Bell said the Federation had to pay stadium maintenance costs before ONIES could authorise the opening of the stadiums. 

“It turns out that the federation had difficulty understanding that the users must be the payers of maintenance. They are not the ones who built these infrastructures. They are the users and as such, they must contribute to their maintenance. Of course, the situation has been regularised," Bell said. 

He added that: "We wouldn't have done it for fun...I think maybe some people think we're funny and think we can't enforce the rules. It's not possible to imagine things like that. Let all those who speak, who say they love and respect Cameroon, respect the Head of State. They must say to themselves that if Cameroon did not need ONIES, this office would not be created. If it was created, it is because we need it. And if we need it, respect it, respect those who created it, respect the idea behind it”. 

There is no doubt that FECAFOOT didn't live by the rule which litigation has often found it in breach.

Just as the scandal concerning the closed stadia was swirling in the media, there were other revolting reports concerning FECAFOOT. 

According to reports, some football stakeholders; among them the Professional Football League, headed by General Pierre Semengue; the President of New Star of Douala, Faustin Domkeu; expelled FECAFOOT member before being reinstated by the TASS, Guibai Gaitama; and the former fourth Vice President of FECAFOOT, Henry Njalla Quan, have dragged FECAFOOT to court.

According to Jeune Afrique, they are accusing FECAFOOT management of among other things, match manipulation, corruption, propagation of false news, attacks on physical and moral integrity.

It is a steamroller that began on August 9, 2023, when the governing body of African football, CAF, announced on its official website the opening of an investigation into alleged inappropriate behaviour by Samuel Eto'o. 

In a reaction, Eto'o said CAF wanted to destroy his image. “I have instructed my lawyers to file a complaint against CAF,” he said.

There are, however, reports in the international media that CAF has finished its investigation and a predictable verdict, which is being speculated, is still to be announced.

It will be one verdict too many, following those in favour of Song's predecessor, Antonio Conceicao, Le Coq Sportif, General Semengue and Co., which have cost FECAFOOT billions in fines and legal fees to add to a mountain of debts, estimated at over five billion FCFA. 

No matter how Eto'o dribbles to get himself and FECAFOOT out of perilous and scandalous webs, the ominous signs are too clear, even for the blind to see.

If he conscientiously has any genuine interest in ameliorating the high-speed deteriorating standards of football in the country as he pledged on taking up office, he should resign.

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