On the same week when Kalusha Bwalya a top footballer turned coach and now administrator had his indefinite  suspension from his duties as chairman of the Football Association of Zambia lifted, another former African footballer footballer,  Louis-Marie  Ondoua  formally announced his intention to run for the presidency of the Cameroon football federation (Fecafoot). (Click here to listen to Ondoua)

Ondoua’s campaign slogan in French is “le football: un affaire de professionnel”. That should mean football is a thing for professionals. With former world great – Michel Platini heading the European football governing body UEFA and the likes of Malian legend Salif Keita running football in his country, it may seem that’s a good ground on which Ondoua could hinge his challenge.

But there are a few differences. Those mentioned above were household names not only in their hometowns but practically the world over. They not only played club football at some of the highest levels but they were the backbones of their various national teams which continues to give them credibility and aura to blend with their skills in administration.

Sadly for Ondoua he did not play professional football in Europe nor represented his country. Which is qiuite a shame because he was a brilliant and stylish player. One whom I had the opportunity of watching as a fan of Canon Sportif Yaoundé, playing alongside Jacques Songo’o, Omam Biyick, Missé Missé, Emmanuel Kundé , Charles Ntarmack and a host of others. Would it really matter that he was not an indomitable Lion?

Ondua as Captain of Canon Sportif Yaoundé (photo credit:www.louismarieondoua.com)

Ondua as Captain of Canon Sportif Yaoundé (photo credit:www.louismarieondoua.com)

If what mattered was a status as a legend then former goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell would have obtained the top job in Cameroonian soccer  in 1996.   Louis-Marie Ondoua was an associate campaign director in Bell’s team.

I am sure he learnt enough to know that the key to the Fecafoot golden fleece is not having the whole of Mokolo market behind you. It is securing the votes of the various delegates. Essentially, it means being on the inside.  Has he been in there for sometime!

Ondoua is a seating member of the Fecafoot executive committee. Since 1999 he has participated at the various reviews of the regulations and statutory texts of Fecafoot. He actually chaired the last review of these essential documents in March of 2007. He was even in-charge of youth football at Fecafoot. A good read of his CV would confirm that this is a man who knows the electors as he said in the interview following his announcement to stand for election.

What we have here is a former footballer with the right background in football politics. Does this mean he would win? What does he offer that is radically different?

This former captain of Canon Yaoundé has pegged his bid on an 11 point manifesto in which he plans to professionalise football in Cameroon, improve relations between the federation and the sports ministry, restructure the current competitions, ensure that the federation supports club to improve their training facilities, support them financially to manage their teams, improve football goveranance among many other things.

Truth is these things are not new to the ears of Cameroonians. For ages no new stadia have been constructed and the feeble attempt by the current Fecafoot bureau at Mbouda got embroiled in the politico-sport dispute involving Bamboutos club. Is it with Ondoua that the state would review its stance on sports infrastructure? What is so special about how Ondoua would manage relations with the sport ministry that would stop greedy officials from wanting to have all of the pie that comes from the Indomitable Lions? If Ondoua thinks there is no effective youth development system (the first-round exit of the cub lions from the under-17 Cup of nations is another proof), what did he really do when he was in-charge to make things work? What would he do differently?

Of course these questions also go to incumbent Iya Mohammed. And to Louis Marie Ondoua’s credit, he has often criticised the current set up even while being inside. In 2006/2007 he even went to the extent of seeking a vote of no confidence against Iya Mohammed. He was unfortunately let down by many he thought were on his side. Has he learnt the lesson? 

I suspect he has. The way he delayed before letting the cat out of the bag this once gives me that impression. For one who was at such serious logger-heads with Iya, it was curious that he had patiently taken his place on the excecutive committee and was quiet when Iya said he would run for another term. Just when many thought there was no serious challenger, he steps up with a clear programme, a well designed website and an artfully constituted team (albeit bereft of anglophones). Except Patrice Tchoumteu and Nkom Mvondo have a magic wand in reserve, it looks certain that the show-down on 24 May is going to be between Ondoua and Iya.

Will he become the next Kalusha Bwalya?  Who should be the next Fecafoot chieftain?