British TV pundits praised Benoit Assou-Ekotto for his consistency at Tottenham Hotspur after the Cameroonian contributed to his club’s 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Monday.
Assou-Ekotto (with a new hairdo) didn’t look perturbed by news that the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) had summoned him to appear at a disciplinary hearing this week, for failing to join Cameroon’s national team at a camp in Morocco.
Has he ditched playing for Cameroon since February as a Douala-based TV station, Equinoxe TV, said on Monday? That story seems to be making the rounds in the media.
But the facts of the story don’t match reality. If Assou-Ekotto ditched the Indomitable Lions since February (!!?), was it his clone that I saw playing at leftback against Senegal on 26 March 2011?
Who knows? The administrative hassles and unprofessional organisation surrounding the Lions could push the player into early retirement like Lauren Etame did in 2002. But it would seem (for now) that it was Javier Clemente who sidelined the player for months. Here’s a timeline of events:
1. In February, Javier Clemente (then Cameroon head coach) does not pick Assou-Ekotto for a friendly against Macedonia. After some players fail to turn-up, the Spaniard hastily recalls the leftback. Assou-Ekotto does not respond to the call.
2. In March, Clemente does not select the leftback for the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal in Dakar.There is criticism from the media, the fans, Fecafoot and Ministry of Sports officials. Reports say the coach feels undermined by the player’s refusal to come as a back-up in February. When it appears that Clemente’s preferred leftback Gaetan Bong is injured, the coach is seemingly pressured to recall Assou-Ekotto.
3. The player joins the Lions’ camp in Portugal and eventually plays against Senegal. The media in Senegal describe him as Ca meroon’s man of the match alongside midfielders Landry N’Geumo and Enoh Eyong.
4. In May Assou-Ekotto is picked by the national team trainer for the return-leg game against Senegal but he does not travel to Yaounde. N.B: The player was recovering from an injury sustained days before the game.
5. After the 0-0 draw that basically knocked Cameroon out of the race to qualify for the Africa Cup in 2012, Fecafoot summons Assou-Ekotto to a disciplinary hearing for not appearing for that game. The player does not physically appear for the hearing but reportedly forwards documents explaining he was injured. The committee issues a warning. The rule book says injured players must have their injuries confirmed/examined by the national team doctor.
6. In August, ahead of a supposed friendly against Salvador, Clemente does not name Assou-Ekotto in his squad. The match fails to hold, though.
7. In September, Clemente names the squad for the qualifier against Mauritius in Yaounde and a friendly (that did not hold) against Mexico in Paris but Assou-Ekotto is not selected. When pressed on local TV, Francois Omam-Biyick the then deputy head coach says Clemente is still angry about Assou-Ekotto’s failure to appear for the game against Senegal in June. Omam says, the head coach views such behaviour as indiscipline.
8. In October, Clemente selects the squad for the final Africa Cup qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo and a friendly against Equatorial Guinea but does not pick Assou-Ekotto.
9. With Clemente and his whole backroom staff sacked after the game against Equatorial Guinea, his successor Denis Lavagne names Assou-Ekotto in a team of 28 players for a series of friendlies in North Africa (versus Sudan, Morocco and Algeria).
10. Assou-Ekotto and several other players fail to make it to the camp in Marrakech in early November. The head coach Lavagne says Assou-Ekotto was injured.
“He (Assou-Ekotto) called that he was injured and that’s a shame because it is the third left-back who is injured,” Lavagne told Camfoot.com
Why then is Assou-Ekotto being dragged to the disciplinary council? Did the coach lie to the journalists? Is Assou-Ekotto charged for not showing up to have the team doctor to confirm his injury as Aurelien Chedjou and Nicolas Nkoulou did?
Why have Fecafoot not summoned Somen Tchoyi and Benjamin Moukandjo who were also reportedly injured but did not travel to Marrakesh?