Tag Archive: fecafoot


It was supposed to be a day of celebration. June 8, exactly 24 years to the day when Cameroon scored a memorable victory against Argentina the then holders of the World Cup. Phone companies and local sports officials had planned to ‘triumphantly’ lead the new pride of  Indomitable Lions to the plane that was to take them to  the World Cup in Brazil. Well, the squad didn’t turn up. They refused to fly to Brazil until a row over match bonuses was resolved. They only left the country around 5:45  in the morning of 9 June.

Haven’t we heard this before?  Cameroon sports officials and players not in agreement over bonuses before or during a FIFA World Cup.  Even that famous victory over Argentina in Italia 1990 (which sparked a historic run to the quarter-finals) was obtained amid disputes over match bonuses between the players and authorities from Cameroon’s sports ministry and the football federation.

“[Bonuses were] discussed until the eve of the opening match (against Argentina),” said Bertin Ebwelle, Cameroon’s left-back at the tournament in Italy. “I can assure you that the discussions were rough and it wasn’t until 5 a.m. that the last player received his bonus,” he told Camfoot.com recently.

Four years later, the players spent sleepless nights arguing over bonuses and the Lions crashed out of the competition after suffering heavy defeats in the hands of Brazil (3-0) and Russia (6-1).

Yet, Cameroon did not learn.

In 2002, possibly the best Indomitable Lions squad since 1990 refused to board the flight that was supposed to take them to Japan for the World Cup except a row over bonuses was resolved. They ended up staying for days at an airport hotel and arrived behind schedule. The Indomitable Lions, then African Champions, were bundled out of the World Cup after a 1-1 draw with Ireland, a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia and a 2-0 defeat to Germany.

Fast-forward to 2014. Cameroon had just started their pre-World Cup training camp in Austria when media reports suggested the players were locked in a row with the country’s football authorities over bonuses. Both sides sought to downplay the seriousness of the issue until it boiled over on Sunday.

After the ‘industrial action’ by the players the federation announced in a statement that the issue had been settled, claiming that they had to draw from private loans to get the money to the players. Really?!

This team qualified for the World Cup in November 2013. Both the authorities and the players know the history surrounding bonuses.  What were they doing in the past 6 months? Why must every participation at the World Cup turn into a farce over something that could be agreed months earlier?

Officials blame the players for asking too much and insisting on being paid before delivering a service. They think the players are going to ‘unpatriotic’ lengths (i.e. refusing to play matches or fail to board a flight) to negotiate their demands. There are conspiracy theories in the media that these demands are linked to internal politicking with some players trying to bring down the federation.

Some in the media have questioned why a team that has not won any major tournament in the last decade should be making such high claims for match bonuses. Others have asked if the players will refund the money taken in advance, if they crash out of the tournament. Many wonder why the government should be paying footballers close to FCFA 50 million each  in a country where  swathes of the population go without clean drinking water or electricity?

Whatever the case, this bonus saga is a complete disgrace for the players, the officials and the country.

“This issue has to be resolved once and for all,” Ebwelle said. That way, players know from the qualifiers what they are going to earn at the World Cup… that way a player can decide whether he wants to go to the World Cup or not. If he decides to go, then he accepts what the nation offers him,” he added.

According to Jules Denis Onana, another 1990 World Cup veteran, negotiations over match bonuses in Cameroon are always tense due to the mistrust between the two involved parties, especially as the players increasingly feel officials use funds that accrue from tournaments to line their pockets instead of investing the money into the development of football in the country.

“Negotiations will always be difficult where there is no trust,” Onana wrote in an open piece published on Cameroon-footbuzz.com. “All that is needed to ensure that footballers and officials can negotiate in a peaceful climate, is a little more transparency around the source, allocation, and use of funds,” the former centre-back, now turned player agent, said.

Will Cameroon learn?

 

Cameroon’s head coach, Volker Finke, has named 28 players in his provisional squad for the World Cup to take place in Brazil in June, the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) said on Monday.

Apart from the inclusion of two players – Loic Feudjou and Cédric Djeugoue – who ply their trade in Cameroon’s top league, there are few surprises in the squad, which includes 16 players who were at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Youngsters Edgar Salli and Fabrice Olinga who have been on the fringes of the squad have a chance to show their worth before the final cast of 23 is named.

There is no space for veteran goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni and England based defender Sebastien Bassong.

Here’s the 28-man squad and the two players on a standby list:

GoalKeepers

1. Charles Itanje

2. Guy-Roland Ndy Assembe

3. Sammy Ndjock

4. Loic Feudjou

Defenders

5. Allan Nyom

6. Dany Nounkeu

7. Cédric Djeugoue

8. Aurelien Chedjou

9. Nicolas Nkoulou

10. Guy-Armel Kana Biyick

11. Henri Bedimo

12. Benoît Assou Ekotto

13. Gaetang Bong

Midfielders

14. Eyong Enow Tarkang

15. Jean II Makoun

16. Joel Matip

17. Stéphane Mbia

18. Landry Nguemo

19. AlexandreSong

20. Cedric Loe

21. Edgar Sally

Fowards

22. Samuel Eto’o Fils

23. Eric Maxime Choupo Moting

24. Benjamin Moukandjo

25. Vincent AboubaKar

26. Achille Webo

27. Idrissou Mohamadou

28. Fabrice Olinga

Standby List

1. Zock (Cosmos Bafia)

2. Franck Banyack

Cameroon’s national soccer team the Indomitable Lions must defeat the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde by at least three clear goals on Sunday to obtain a ticket to  South Africa for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Cape Verde beat Cameroon  2-0 last month in the first-leg encounter.

The thought of missing a second AFCON in a row has led to desperate moves from the government, football officials and fans.  Authorities sacked the French-born coach who was in-charge of the team and installed Jean Paul Akono barely days after the defeat. Akono then pushed authorities to convince the team captain Samuel Eto’o to return to the squad after he suspended his international career last month.

He  picked several players who featured during his spells as head coach of the U-23 (Olympic) Lions and the senior Indomitable Lions between 2000 and 2004.  Achille Webo, Modeste Mbami, Pierre Wome, Jean Makoun, Angbwa Ossomeyong have not been in the den for a while but the Olympic Gold Medal winning coach thinks their experience will be a deciding factor in the weekend’s duel. The media thinks it is a sign of desperation.

Who knows? The coach may be banking on the views of Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century British Prime Minister, novelist and bon viveur who once said that “desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.”  Cameroon’s fortunes depend on Akono’s tactical genius.

Akono favours playing a high defensive line with  attackers and midfielders who harry and press opponents throughout the game. Can his “experienced players”  have the energy and fitness levels required for this?

According to reporters who have observed the team train all week, particularly the practice match against local (division 3) side  on Wednesday, the coach is plotting a flat 4-4-2 formation. He has regularly started with Idris Kameni as goalkeeper,  Angbwa as rightback and Wome as leftback; a very young central defence partnership of Guy Armel Kana Biyick and Nicolas Nkoulou. He has played with Alex Song, Jean Makoun, Idrissou and Mevoungou in midfield while Achille Emana or Eto’o and Webo have played as strikers.

MIDFIELD DIAMOND

On the overall scheme of things, Akono seems to be respecting his promise to set-up an attack-minded team (they beat the local side 5-1).  But a few things seem unclear, though. Is he playing an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with a double-pivot (of Makoun and Song) in central midfield and traditional wingers? Who are the wingers? Idrissou can put a shift on the left but his crossing is awful (he’s a striker) while  Mevoungou and Emana don’t enjoy playing on the flanks. How he tackles the issue would determine the attacking flow of the game.

If Cameroon must play a 4-4-2 formation,  I believe they are more suited to operate with a ‘diamond’  midfield due to the lack of true wingers among the current crop of players. They have hardworking midfielders to intercept (break-down) moves by opponents and shuttle from box-to-box. They also have relatively good  fullbacks who can  overlap to provide width rather than forcing reluctant central midfielders and  strikers into becoming the wingers.

For instance, they could start with:  Kameni (gk) – Allan Nyom or Angbwa (RB) and Wome (LB); Kana-Biyick (CB) Nkoulou (CB) in defence.  A midfield diamond with  either Alex Song or Joel Matip sat deep in space in-front of the back-four, Makoun a little ahead  to the left, Mevoungou or higher up on the right and Overtoom  at the tip of the diamond, behind Eto’o  or Achille Emana and Webo.

However they choose to play (and I won’t be surprised to see them playing a 3-5-2 formation with Kana, Nkoulou, Chedjou or Matip at the back) it won’t be a ride in the park. Cape Verde have been training as well and are so good that they outplayed Cameroon in Praia.

Cameroon have been down this road before. Eight veteran Lions visited the current pride to share their experience of backs-to-the-wall games. Roger Milla (CAF African Player of the 20th Century), Joseph Antoine Bell (1984 & 1988 AFCON winner), Theophile Abega (1984 AFCON winning captain), Bonaventure Njonkep (1984 AFCON winner) and Victor Ndi Akem, Eugene Ekeke and Thomas Libih (1990 World Cup quarter-finalists) sought to pass on the indomitable spirit of the past.

But what will be the story by 6p.m. on Sunday? Will fans be celebrating as wildly as they did on 10th October 1993 after Cameroon defeated Zimbabwe 3-1 to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.?  Will Eto’o and Webo be weeping inconsolably on the turf of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium as they did after the  Lions drew 1-1 with Egypt on 8th October 2005 and failed to reach the 2006  World Cup in Germany?

Denis Lavagne, the head coach of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, has named a 22-man squad expected to travel to Guinea Bissau at the end of February for an Africa Cup of Nations 2013 qualifier.

Could Choupo-Moting (L) or Stephane Mbia (R) become Cameroon's media punta or regista?

Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s absence from the list has sparked debate, which is logical given the defender’s performances at Tottenham Hotspur. However, the absence of creativity in the squad requires greater attention.

Creativity here is not the technical ability to dribble, which many of the players possess. It is that science and/or art to link defence to attack with grace. It is the sharpness of mind to make a perfectly weighted killer-pass to the right man and at the right time.

That could be delivered by a variety of players. There is the trequartista – an advanced playmaker who plays centrally between the opposition’s defence and attack, very similar to the engache (Argentine variant) like Juan Riquelme (normally referred to as a “number 10”).  There is the regista – often a deep-lying playmaker like the Italian Andrea Pirlo and more recently Paul Scholes for Manchester United.

Then there is the media-punta – the player who links the midfield organisers and the attack. That is what the likes of Cesc Fabregras, Lionel Messi, and Iniesta do for FC Barcelona and David Silva does for Manchester City.

Creative players give an extra dimension to their teams. They carve openings in the most water-tight defences, they switch the direction of play, dictate the rhythm of a game via their accurate long and short passing.  Who does that for Cameroon?

DEFENDERS

Of the 22 players selected for the Bissau game, at least eleven have consistently played as defenders this season: Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille, France), Stephane Mbia (Marseille, France), Aurelien Chedjou (Lille, France), Jean Armel Kana Biyik (Rennes, France), Henri Bedimo (Montpellier, France), Dany Nounkeu (Gaziantespor, Turkey), Gaetan Bong (Valenciennes, France) and Allan Nyom (Granada, Spain), Joel Matip (Schalk 04, Germany), Georges Mandjeck (Auxerre, France).

A further two: Alexandre Song (Arsenal, England) and Landry Ngeumo (Bordeaux, France) have been employed as holding midfielders (a role which Matip, Mbia, and Mandjeck have also held).

Lavagne fielded a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield trio of Nguemo, Song and Enoh Eyong during the LG Cup in Morocco last November. Nguemo and Song looked like the organisers, surging forward to support the attack. They played their hearts out and the team beat Sudan 3-1 and Morocco on penalties after a 1-1 draw.That could possibly be enough versus Bissau.

But, as seen during the World Cup in South Africa where Paul Le Guen used midfield combinations of Makoun, Nguemo, Enoh or Matip – expecting creativity from players who are often defenders or holding midfielders could end up in total fiasco when faced with teams that are solid and compact.

The absence of creative, organising talent  has dogged Cameroon football for many years and certainly goes beyond the game versus Bissau. Lavagne’s predecessors such as Winfried Schaffer, Arthur Jorge, Jules Nyongha, Otto Pfister and Paul Le Guen devised various stratagems to overcome this challenge.

Schaffer designed systems that employed the late Marc Vivien Foe as a regista and on some occasions a hard running box-to-box midfielder.

Arthur Jorge re-shaped the team into a 4-3-3 using former wingers Salomon Olembe and Ngom Kome in central midfield behind the threesome of Samuel Eto’o, Achille Webo and Rudolph Douala. He finished his tenure by using a 4-2-3-1 with Eto’o having a free role “in the hole” behind the lone forward.

Jules Nyongha used a 4-4-2 system with double pivot – usually any two of Stephane Mbia, Landry Nguemo, Jean Makoun and Achille Emana – with each taking turns to attack and defend.

Lavagne must be thinking about this hence talk of switching the FIFA nationality of the attacking midfielder  Willie Overtoom who was born in Cameroon but has represented Holland at youth level. Playing one of Chedjou, Matip, and Mbia as a regista and/or moulding the talented Choupo-Moting as a media-punta or a trequartista are other options to consider.

DEVELOPMENT

However, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) and/or the national technical directorate need to restructure things from the roots by developing programmes that insist on producing creative young players (in addition to the physical aspects of the game).

As kids growing up in Yaounde, one needed what was called “condi” or “condition” (physical fitness) to be picked in games. Those of us whose physique was not developed to “jam-lock” (basically bulldoze past opponents) were left on the sidelines.

This became even more systematic with the boom of football academies, which are basically incubators of the template for African players needed by Europe-based teams i.e strong, big, tall, quick with enough technique to control the ball.

That mentality has to change.  Simply overpowering opponents with athleticism and counter-attack based football has its limits. P.E. teachers, trainers at soccer academies and club coaches must work on intelligent runs, technique and decision-making for the right pass.

Theophile Abega, Gregoire Mbida, Jean Tokoto, Roger Milla and Louis Paul Mfede could do that and they were also Cameroonians, which means it is possible to have such players.

Meanwhile, here is the squad as published on the Fecafoot website:

1. Nkoulou Nicolas (Olympique de Marseille – France)
2. Aboubakar Vincent (AS Valenciennes – France)
3. Bedimo Henri (Montpellier – France)
4. Bienvenu Henri Ntsama (Fenerbache – France)
5. Bong Gaetan (Valenciennes – France)
6. Chedjou Aurelien (Lille – France)
7. Choupo Moting Eric (Mayence – Allemagne)
8. Feudjou Aurelien (Cotonsport – Cameroun)
9. Kameni Carlos Idriss (Malaga – Espagne
10. Kana Biyik Jean Armel (Rennes – France)
11. Kweuke Leonard (Sparta – Rép. Tchèque)
12. Mandjeck Georges (Auxerre – France)
13. Matip Joel (Schalke 04 – Allemagne )
14. Moukandjo Benjamin (AS Nancy – France)
15. Ndy Assembe Guy (AS Nancy – France)
16. Nguemo Landry (Bordeaux – France)
17. Nounkeu Dany (Gaziantespor – Turquie)
18. Nyom Allan (Grenade – Espagne )
19. Salli Edgar (Monaco – France)
20. Song Alexandre (Arsenal – Angleterre)
21. Zoua Jacques (Bale – Suisse)
22. Mbia Stéphane (Marseille – France)

**This article has been amended (in paragraphs 16 & 17)  to include a AFC as the footballers’ association suspended by Fecafoot.

Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot) has revised disciplinary sanctions it handed to the country’s national team captain, Samuel Eto’o  and two other players, the body said in a statement issued after an executive committee meeting that also appointed former Indomitable Lions skipper, Rigobert Song, as team manager.

Eto’o saw a 15-match ban, for inciting his teammates to boycott an international friendly against Algeria last November, revised to an eight-month suspension. He would miss Cameroon’s matches until August. The original decision would have seen him out of the Indomitable Lions fold for at least two years.

“Mr Samuel Eto’o Fils is a world famous athlete who has rendered outstanding service to Cameroon’s national teams…He could still offer useful services to the men’s senior national football team in upcoming competitions,” Fecafoot said.

The decision to reconsider (reduce but not scrap) the sanction, although the player did not appeal, was taken for the good of the game while reaffirming the importance of  respecting institutions, authorities, set rules and regulations, the federation explained.

Earlier in the week the Federation refuted allegations that Cameroon’s President Paul Biya had ordered that the sanctions be reduced.

The Federation also reconsidered the situation of deputy captain Enoh Eyong Takang.  The Ajax Amsterdam midfielder had been handed a two-game ban for his role in the November player strike. He will now be suspended for two months, which would mean a one-match ban at the most.

Fecafoot, which has not clarified if the revised suspensions take effect as from January or from the date of the initial sanctions (in December), also rescinded the 1 million FCFA ($2000) fine they initially imposed on left fullback Benoit Assou-Ekotto for not respecting a call-up in November.

SONG IN
Meanwhile, the Federation appointed a former captain, Rigobert Song, as Team Manager. He replaces Martin Etonge who was bizzarely dropped last June. That means Song is not the “coordinator of national teams,” a post that had been promised and finally not (created nor) given to another former international, Patrick Mboma.
Although many fans and the media hail the inclusion of a former player (and iconic captain) in the national team management, suspicion is rife that his appointment is a divide and rule tactic from a spineless federation, which seems unable to control Eto’o’s perceived influence over the team.
“(…) Rigobert Song would certainly limit Samuel Eto’o’s power over the team. Eto’o has a lot of influence over the players,” a Fecafoot board member told Camfoot.com.
Song left the national team in acrimonious circumstances after he was stripped of his captaincy by former head coach Paul Le Guen in favour of Eto’o. A good number of the players remained faithful to him leading to a massive split in the dressing room that affected Cameroon’s performances at the 2010 Africa Cup and World Cup competitions.
However, there are many in the Federation who hope that Song would be the link between the players and officials. He is expected to create opportunities for dialogue, which was impossible during the November Crisis, when players refused to travel to Algeria.
MAYEBI OUT
The Federation has also instructed all national team players to forward their bank account details to Fecafoot so that their match bonuses be transferred directly to them, in a bid to improve management.
Match bonuses are currently paid in cash.  This contributed to fester the row over appearance bonuses which ended with players refusing to play against Algeria.  Authorities claimed they had not travelled with sufficient liquidity to pay that particular bonus.
Such archaic managerial routines were widely criticised by the public that felt Fecafoot and its officials were also at fault in the events that led to the failed friendly. This increased a feeling of injustice among fans of the  suspended players.
Some of the worst criticism of the disciplinary sanctions came from within Fecafoot – in the shape of one of it’s vice-presidents, David Mayebi, who as head of the Cameroon Footballers’ Association (AFC), told local TV stations in December that the punishments meted out to Eto’o, Enoh and Assou-Ekotto were unjust.
Fecafoot executive committee has now suspended  David Mayebi, as well as AFC, in a move seen as retribution for openly giving support to the players against the federation.

Cameroon’s national soccer team captain, Samuel Eto’o has been handed a fifteen match ban for inciting his teammates to revolt against how the team is managed. The players refused to travel to Algeria for a friendly game, in what the Anzhi striker described as a protest action along the lines of the “Arab Spring” revolutions that led to the fall of the Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) said in a statement on Friday.

Samuel Eto'o at a press conference in Dakar

Samuel Eto'o incited his team mates to revolt says Fecafoot

Eto’o told a disciplinary hearing on Monday 12 December that incompetence, dishonesty and injustice were the hallmarks of football managers in Cameroon. He said the players were treated like “kids” and their refusal to play against Algeria was a sign of protest against this state of affairs.

The players who were in Marrakech, Morocco for a friendly tournament,  had insisted that they would not travel to Algeria except authorities pay up a customary appearance fee of FCFA 500,000 each they get at every national team camp, which had not been handed them on that occasion.

Fecafoot says its officials and those of the Ministry of Sport  held several meetings with the players, particularly the captain, his deputy Enoh Eyong Takang and other senior players: Idriss Kameni, Jean Makoun and Alexandre Song but the players refused to budge.

The Federation says Eto’o failed to explain why the players refused to travel although the Algerian Federation offered to pay $30,000 once the team arrived in Algeria while the Cameroon Ministry of Sport dispatched FCFA 15 million.

DEMANDS

From the statement issued by the disciplinary council, it appears that the players, under the leadership of their captain, had made other demands which they wanted to be met.

–       The players wanted an increment in the match bonuses they are handed during friedlies

–       That the team captain be  consulted the federation signs contracts for any friendly match

–        Have the players fly in first class

–       That the captain have a copy of the federation’s contracts with its main sponsors

–       That what ever payments are made by these sponsors are given to all of the team’s staff

–       That the payment of appearance be obligatory at all friendly matches

–       That the authorities pay  a symbolic fee to the players for their participataion in the friendly game against Algeria

–       That the rate of match bonuses be reviewed (increased) ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup and 2014 Wold Cup that start next year.

“The players may have been right in their demands but their style and manner of seeking redress was bad,” a Senior Official in the Federation told me. He also  felt Eto’o and vice-captain Enoh Eyong Takang – who has been banned for two games – had slighted authorities and had to have their wings clipped.

The statement following the disciplinary hearing says Eto’o described the vice-President of Fecafoot as “Papa menteur” (a lying old man).

SOLDIERS

Apparently, Eto’o and Eyong are being punished for protesting. These are players and their role (in the words of the official who spoke to me) is to obey orders like soldiers.

The fact that the Federation and the Ministry of Sport did not agree on who was to pay the said appearance fees (an aspect that transpires in the disciplinary council’s statement) has been conveniently brushed aside.

Authorities have argued that the money finally came on the eve of the match and that the Algerians were ready to pay.  But does that absolve them from accusations of incompetence?

If it was possible to get FCFA 15 million on the eve of the game after the players threatened to boycott the game in Algeria – why had the authorities not done so earlier? Didn’t the players make present their demands at the start of the camp in Morocco?

Why, even for courtesy sake, were the players not told before that they were going to play in Algeria for free? And was it normal – for Cameroon’s image – that Algerians be called upon to pay fees which should be the duty of Cameroonian authorities?

Refusing to play a game is certainly reprehensible. In addition, some of the players’ demands (mentioned above) seem a stretch too far. However, not all the persons responsible for the fiasco have been judged or punished.

Federation officials who spent their time warning and threatening the players, are the same people who wrote reports used against the players, and are the same people who appeared as witnesses to testify against the players. What does that say about fairness and justice?

Apparently, Eto’o picked the wrong crowd to start an “Arab Spring” uprising against.

He has 10 days to appeal the verdict of the disciplinary council. However, if his 15 match ban is upheld it would mean the end to his international career. It isn’t a secret that many would love to see him gone, though. He has often been criticised for an overbearing grip on the team, staff and officials. Such a ban would also send a warning to any potential dissidents in the ranks of the Indomitable Lions.

However, it leaves a rather wealthy and popular loose cannon, who knows enough to rock the federation’s stable. This may come to haunt those who took the decision in the long run.

Cotonsport Garoua have won the 2011 edition of the Cup of Cameroon. They defeated Unisport du Haut Nkam 3-0 on Sunday in Yaounde. But don’t go thinking it was an exciting encounter. No. The victory came through penalty shoot-outs after both teams had dished out an insipid performance for 90 minutes.

The first-half was the worst football performance I have watched this year. A catalogue of failed passes, mis-controlled balls and misses that were worthy of a secondary school football match.

“I am disappointed,” Henry Njalla Quan, the deputy president of the newly created Cameroon professional football league, said after the game.

“The quality of the match was far below what I expected,” Njalla Quan  told CRTV news.

He hoped the managers would do their utmost to improve their teams before the start of continental club competitions where they are expected to represent Cameroon.

Some of the elementary technical and tactical errors exhibited by the players in that game were a disgrace to local football in Cameroon.

But do we have to put all the blame on the players? Not really.

The teams qualified for this final in August.  They had to wait until December to play the game. Nearly five months, most of which were spent practically doing nothing because the football league also ended within that period.

They had to wait  for the Presidency to set a date since the final marks the end of the sports season in the country, and it is usually chaired by the President of the Republic. The date was only made known this week.

How, in such circumstances, would those players perform well? One could clearly see they lacked match fitness. They were rusty. Training does not replace competitive football. Never.

For the good of the game, it is about time Cameroon set a date (like it’s done elsewhere) at the start of the season. If the President is unavailable for whatever reason, have somebody represent him. The Prime Minister did so last year and the world did not come to an end.

The President gets represented at international summits and various events holding in Cameroon by a plethora of officials from the President of the National Assembly, through the chairman of the (moribund) Economic and Social Council to ministers. Any of these people could do same at the Cup of Cameroon final.

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?

Assou-Ekotto is second from left among players crouching as Cameroon players pose before playing Senegal in Dakar on 26 March 2011. Or was it his clone?

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?

Football authorities in Cameroon have summoned the captain of their national football team, Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi Makhachkala) and his deputy Enoh Eyong Takang (Ajax Amsterdam), to a disciplinary hearing after the team refused to play a friendly, local media reported on Sunday.

Cameroon were due to play Algeria on Tuesday 15 Nov but the players did not travel for the game.

Cameroon authorities want Eto’o and Enoh to explain why the team basically went on strike, in what is seen by the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) and the ministry of sport as gross misconduct and a disgrace to the country’s image.

The players had issued a statement on 13 Nov saying they were not ready to play because of the non-payment of an appearance bonus (Prime de Presence) which they receive each time they  are called to camp.

By the time the sports ministry finally wired funds via a money transfer service less than 24 hours before kick-off, the players had firmly opted not to play and the game was cancelled.

The Lions didn't look convinced by what authorities were saying at this meeting in Marrakech. (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda: Team Press Officer)

BAD GOVERNANCE

Officials want to punish the players but soccer pundits in the country have come to the team’s defence.

“The problems the Lions have been facing are not due to the (in)competence of players or the coaches who succeed each other at a furious pace at the helm of this team,” wrote Cameroon Tribune, the government-run daily.

“The issue of governance (administration of the Indomitable Lions) is a major concern,” the paper said.

As an example of bad management, pundits point to the fact that the players only learnt in Morocco (where they were participating in a friendly tournament)  that FECAFOOT was not expected to make any proceeds from the  game in Algeria.

In other words, they had not been told that they were practically going to play in Algeria for free and when they asked they were rebuffed by the officials present, journalists who travelled with the team said on a television show.

It should be noted that FECAFOOT and the players have an arrangement wherein both parties split the proceeds of friendly matches.

“If they asked what they were due and were not given an answer, it is quite normal, or rather, I think they felt  it was quite normal, for their part , not to play this game,” Jean Paul Akono, the deputy national technical director, told CRTV.

“These  are professional footballers… If you do not tell them in advance that they are going to play a match without proceeds, which would surprise me, when they go to play, they expect to be paid… I doubt that there was no fee for this match against Algeria… “ added Akono, who is a former head coach of the Indomitable Lions.

An interview given by the team captain to state radio (CRTV) on Friday 11 Nov, in which he complained about poor organisation and urged the authorities to take action, shows that the players had had enough of the unprofessionalism around them, pundits say.

BLAME GAME

Fecafoot and the ministry of sport have in the days following the incident traded accusations over who was responsible for the unpaid allowances.

The ministry says it only pays the (now infamous) “participation allowance” when the team is playing a competitive fixture, suggesting that the federation should be responsible in the case of friendlies.

FECAFOOT issued a statement which suggests that these allowances are not mandatory but that they were willing to pay then once the team returned from Algeria. A federation spokesman said on local TV (Canal 2 International) that the federation did not have the funds in hand in Morocco.

Both the federation and the ministry of sport have since held crisis meetings in which they resolved to dispatch a team of officials to Algeria to apologise for the failed rendez-vous.

Meanwhile, media  reports say the Algerian football authorities have taken the Cameroon football federation (FECAFOOT)  to football’s governing body FIFA for breach of contract.

The Algerians had sold out tickets for the match and sold broadcast right to several TV stations. They want FECAFOOT to reimburse the losses they have incurred.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto has also been summoned to explain why he did not show up for the camp in Morocco.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will face Guinea Bissau in the first phase of qualifiers of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

The home and away knock-out games will be played in January 2012 at the same time as the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

These will be the first competitive games for Cameroon’s newly appointed technical staff headed by Frenchman Denis Lavagne.

supporters getting ready

Cameroon fans have to get set for the upcoming games

The Nations Cup is being switched from even to odd years so there is only one year between the next two events.

As a result the qualifiers for the 2013 competition have been divided into three parts:

  • A first preliminary stage involving the four  lowest ranked teams that are not qualified for the Africa Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. As such  Seychelles will play against Swaziland while Sao Tome take on Lesotho.
  • The winners of these games plus 26 other countries that have not qualified qualified for the 2012 edition of the Africa cup will face each other in head-to-head (home and away) knock out games (see pairings below).
  • The winners of these games will then be paired against teams that will participate in the 2012 Africa Cup. These games will also be home and away, head-to-head fixtures.
  • The fifteen teams that emerge from this process will join hosts South Africa in the 2013 tournament.

Here is the complete fixture list as drawn by the Confederation of African Football:

Preliminary round one:

Seychelles v Swaziland

Sao Tome v Lesotho

Preliminary round two:

Ethiopia v Benin

Rwanda v Nigeria

Congo Brazzaville v Uganda

Burundi v Zimbabwe

Algeria v The Gambia

Kenya v Togo

Sao Tome/Lesotho v Sierra Leone

Guinea Bissau v Cameroon

Chad v Malawi

Seychelles/Swaziland v DR Congo

Tanzania v Mozambique

Central African Republic v Egypt

Madagascar v Cape Verde

Liberia v Namibia