Tag Archive: paul le guen


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if the revised suspensions take effect as from January or from the date of the initial sanctions (in December), also rescinded the 1 million FCFA ($2000) fine they initially imposed on left fullback Benoit Assou-Ekotto for not respecting a call-up in November.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

Cameroon have won a friendly football tournament (LG Cup) after they defeated Morocco 4-2 during a penalty shoot-out. Both teams were tied 1-1 after regular play time and had to revert to penalties to have a winner as per the rules of the competition.

Denis Lavagne (left) and his assistant Ndtoungou Mpile (right) win first trophy but did they get their tactics right? (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Team Press Officer)

Samuel Eto’o, Henri Bedimo, Dany Noukeu and Enoh Eyong scored their spot kicks for Cameroon while while Morocco missed two of theirs.

Cameroon may have won but Morocco were the better playing side for most of the 90 minutes (plus injury time). Their short passing was precise, with regular one-twos and give-and-go passes that ran the Cameroon midfield ragged.

The Atlas Lions (Morocco) also showed they had the capacity to switch their game, adding more penetration that took Cameroon’s midfield off-guard. This put the centrebacks: Georges Mandjeck (preferred to Joel Matip) and Dany Noukeu on the back-foot

The Indomitable Lions were playing a 4-3-3 where the fullbacks were expected to bomb forward to create width and support the attackers but Morocco played so high-up and at such high tempo that, Bernard Angbwa (right-back) and Henri Bedimo (Left-back) were hemmed-in for most of the encounter.

FIGHTING SPIRIT OVER TECHNIQUE

Two games in two days may have stretched the Indomitable Lions physically. They were forced (by a deluge of injuries) to start with the same that played against Sudan on Friday. However, in a very Cameroonian never-say-die spirit (which had been missing for a while) the team refused to lose.

By the 75th minute when Eto’o scored the curtain-raiser, the Moroccans had obtained 8 corner-kicks to Cameroon’s none. The Moroccans also squandered several goal scoring opportunities, often shooting wide but also denied by the impressive N’Dy Assembe in Cameroon’s goal.

Towards the last 15 minutes of the first-half and during a 15-minute spell before and after Eto’o’s opener Cameroon, however regained the upper-hand. Enoh, Landry N’Geumo and Alex Song fighting for every ball and blocking every space in midfield.

The technique from young Vincent Aboubakar and substitutes Edgar Salli and Jacques Zoua temporarily shifted the balance of power. Were it not for for a really poor final shot from Jean Makoun after a superb combination, Cameroon would have been 2-nil up before the Moroccans equalised.

The Olympiakos player who is not a first choice for Cameroon anymore surely lost the little sympathy fans still have for him.

RETURN OF THE 4-3-3 DEBATE

It is not unusual for Cameroon to win games and tourneys without being the most pleasing side to watch. The Junior Lions typified this Cameroonian quality during the African Youth Championships and the U-20 World Cup tournaments this year.

Nonetheless Cameroon fans have already started complaining about the 4-3-3 formation that coach Denis Lavagne is using. (Does that sound familiar Mr Le Guen?) Many have suggested on online forums that Cameroon hasn’t got the players for that system so the team should return to a  4-4-2  formation that will provide natural width.

I don’t really fancy Cameron playing a system that hinges on wide men. They do not have the players that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Harry Rednapp’s Tottenham have got. Does Cameroon have Nani, Ashley Young, Gareth Bale and Lennon type players?

The country produces mostly players who feature in the centre of the pitch (centre-backs, central midfielders and strikers). Only the list of centre-backs and defensive midfielders could make up a squad:  Nicolas Nkoulou, Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Sebastien Bassong, Yaya Banana, Dany Noukeu, Guy-Armel Kana Biyick, Andre Bikey, Joel Matip, Alex Song, Eyong Enoh, Landry N’geumo, etc.

A DIAMOND COMPROMISE

Indomitable Lions coaches have resorted to playing systems where they can adapt some of the strikers as wide forwards (but not wingers) or playmakers or given creative roles to otherwise defensive midfielders.

This has usually meant playing formations such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 (a.k.a Christmas Tree) and 4-3-3. When they have tried playing 4-4-2, they have been forced to use fullbacks (such as Henri Bedimo) as wingers, drawing the ire of the same fans and media calling for a return to ‘simple ways’.

A compromise between playing 4-4-2 and fitting the kind of players at the disposal of Cameroon’s coaches would be to play a diamond midfield: a holding midfielder, a playmaker behind two strikers and 2 shufflers running the channels in midfield (playing narrow) but not wingers.

Although, I’d advise the managers to do things as they deem right for the team, they might want to try a diamond midfield against a relatively weaker opponent. Isn’t it one of  Martin Ndtoungou Mpile’s (deputy head coach) favourite formations?

However, there’d be little width except the fullbacks join in (requiring a lot of defensive and attacking duties for them). The game would be overly dependent on the playmaker being able to click creatively but also supporting the defence.

Listen to
internet radio with Gefcasting on Blog Talk Radio

Samuel Eto’o missed a late penalty that would have given Cameroon victory over Senegal and keep the Central African nation’s slim hope of qualifying to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations alive. The game ended 0-0 and the Indomitable Lions look certain to miss the tournament to be hosted by their neighbours Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. But on a purely tactical perspective it was a promising display from Cameroon – their most attack-minded performance in a competitive match in a long while.

Cameroon’s head coach, Javier Clemente, kept his promise to send out a team focused on attacking its opponent from the start.  The team included Benjamin Moukandjo, Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Samuel Eto’o who are all used as attackers in their clubs.

He organised them in a 4-2-3-1 formation (similar to the one used by Germany at the 2010 World Cup). Eto’o was the lone striker while the youngsters (named above) played as the “3” behind him often interchanging positions. The shape gave the team width and penetration as the front four took turns to become de facto striker, “wingers” (cutting inside) or drop as a supporting striker (linking midfield and attack) given that the trio (Moukandjo, Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting) are all capable of unpicking opposing defences with ease.

The result was constant pressure on the Senegalese team from the first to the last minute of play; in a way Cameroon last did only in the 2006 Cup of Nations under Arthur Jorge and the early days of Paul Le Guen’s reign.

There were over a dozen corner kicks for Cameroon; not less than a dozen free-kicks at the edge of the Senegalese 18-yard box; and 7 clear goal-scoring chances (several of them one-on-one with the goalkeeper).

Sadly, the finishing was poor. Many of the shots were hit straight at goalkeeper Coundoul (who was preferred to (Calamity) Khadim Ndiaye).

fans senegal

Is it all about victory now?

MOVEMENT

The Senegalese have lashed out at the referee, who was far from excellent and gave a rather soft penalty to Cameroon. But the referee cannot be blamed for their complete tameness. Amara Traore had opted for a 4-3-3 which had a front three of Mamadou Niang, Issiar Dia and Moussa Sow. His intention was to have an extra man in midfield as opposed to the away leg in Dakar.

Yet, they were over-run by the movement Cameroon’s midfield 5 (if one includes the threesome that was supporting the attack) particularly the Enoh Eyong Tarkang and Landry Nguemo duet. Enoh sat deep mainly protecting his centre-backs while Nguemo peppered the Senegalese with hardworking box-to-box play that supported the attacking scheme set-up by Clemente (Aurelien Chedjou who was surprisingly left on the bench as a result of this formation, came on as a second-half substitute for Nguemo and added that penetration that was lacking in Dakar, as well).

The Senegalese had only one shot on target and it was from an off-side position.

Cameroon’s keeper, Carlos Kameni, was practically not seen throughout the encounter while his defenders – Amgwa Ossomeyong (RB), Nicolas Nkoulou (CB), Stephane Mbia (CB), Gaetan Bong (LB) – were rarely troubled. The full-backs (Amgwa and Bong) shuttled back and forth on the flanks to add with while Mbia had several opportunities to score with a header from Cameroon’s numerous kicks – but he hit the ball wide on many occasions.

The pressure, movement, passing, free-kicks and possession driven play from back-to-front came to nil because Cameroon were unable to score. A few fans got so bitter after the game that they attacked cars parked outside the stadium and clashed with security forces who tried to protect the players. It pains when a team doesn’t win and nobody wants failure. But there were positive lessons in that game which could serve as a great guide.

PROMISE

Beyond Eto’o and the penalty he missed – Saturday’s game was another preview of a promising new generation of Indomitable Lions. With the average age of the starting eleven being 22 (if you take away Kameni and Eto’o)  there is a foundation for the emergence of another great pride of Lions (including the likes of Joel Matp and Salli Edgar),  if they play under the guidance of a manager who is there to build and  is not under pressure to produce immediate results (which politicians want to use as distraction).

“A manager (coach) can only make a difference if he has a club that backs him, that is patient, that gives confidence to players and that is willing to commit to long-term. And in any case that doesn’t just want to win, but to win convincingly,” Arrigo Sacchi, the Italian master tactician, is quoted as saying in Jonathan Wilson’s book: Inverting the Pyramid.

The mistake that has been made in the past and which was repeated after the World Cup in 2010 was to go for the short-term (or victory now and at all cost) approach. Authorities and the media didn’t accept that the Indomitable Lions were (are) a team under construction (in transition).

They went into witch-hunting mode, comparing generations passed and present, and mis-managing (or over-reacting to) tensions between players in the squad. Many were oblivious to the fact that Le Guen had unearthed talented  but inexperienced players that had to mature and could not necessarily triumph at the World Cup or ride over the continent.

Upon the first hurdle (which was the 1-1 draw with Congo), the media and team administrators panicked and a chain of reactions has led to a collapse of what should have been a painstaking project.

An absence from the Africa Cup could turn to into an opportunity to build a solid and more conquering team. With less pressure to win a trophy, a good and passionate coach, discipline and better organisation, regular camps and sparring partners on every FIFA date available, the Lions would re-emerge as a force in 2012/13 in time for the World Cup qualifiers.

Wasn’t that the path that Senegal took after they were knocked-out of the race to the 2010 Africa Cup and World Cup tournaments?

 

Cameroon starting eleven against Senegal, Dakar 26 March 2011

Cameroon’s national football team did not play an international friendly this 29 March. That’s a shame. Playing against Gabon, for instance, would have been an opportunity to consolidate the good and tweak the bad aspects noticed in the game against Senegal on 26 March in Dakar. Here’s a tactical analysis of that Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

 

After a nervy start – during which they had to come to grips with Senegal’s 4-2-4 system – Cameroon basically seized control of the midfield where they outnumbered their host by playing a (form of) 4-1-3-2 formation. The ball retention by Cameroon’s midfield was very good for 35 of the first 45 minutes and for about 20 minutes in the second half.

 

 

Aurelien Chedjou calmed proceedings sitting in-front of the two central defenders, while Eyong Enoh and Landry Ngeumo harassed the two Senegalese midfielders (Nguiram Ndaw and Mohamed Ndiame) for the ball. Henri Bedimo who was wide on the left tucked in to provide a helping hand as did Samuel Eto’o who dropped from his attacking position to play on the right of midfield.

 

This prevented the Senegalese fire-power from setting into motion to the point that the host players were booed-off the pitch at half time.

 

Tactical discipline

 

The Senegalese coach, Amara Traore, several other tacticians and the Senegalese press saluted Cameroon’s tactical discipline and the quality of their passing after the encounter.

 

Unfortunately, as good as it was defensively, the system was bereft of vision  going forward. Nguemo was supposed to provide the thrust. Though he was among Cameroon’s best men, according to the Senegalese media, he often failed to deliver quality final balls.

 

Honestly, it wasn’t just a personal weakness. Who could he pass the ball to? Often Achille Webo was alone upfront and (without any bias against the Majorca man) he lacked the technique to dribble his way until Eto’o and Bedimo could join from their wide midfield roles.

 

When Eto’o or Bedimo did succeed to make  in-roads from the flanks,, Webo blew the chances – shooting wide or being out of position to receive the final pass.

 

A friendly match would have been an opportunity to fix that connection between attack and midfield just as it would have been a chance to create further cohesion in the, generally, solid defence that faced Senegal.

 

Eto'o, Webo and Enoh in the midst of the Senegalese defence before a corner, Dakar 26 March 2011

 

 

I have a preference for Sebastien Bassong in central defence but Clemente’s pair of Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia kept the Senegalese at bay until the 92nd minute.

 

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, described by Senegalese newspapers as the best Cameroonian Lion in the game, showed why he had to be in the squad. He displayed technique and a positional sense which helped him cover his central defence colleagues on several occasions.

 

Lopsided formation

 

Benoit Amgwa who played at right-back could not muster such plaudits. He has actually come under heavy criticism for the goal against Cameroon. But was he the only one at fault? I don’t think so.

 

The goal resulted from a defect in the formation put in place by Clemente and the substitutions he made in the second half.

 

In fact, the formation (4-1-3-1-1) when attacking and a 4-5-1 when Cameroon was defending) had a clear wide-left player in Bedimo who stuck to the flank whereas Enoh, who was supposedly his opposite number  on the right, rather stayed close to the central midfield area leaving Amgwa without cover when the attacker (Eto’/ Vincent Aboubakar) cut inside to join the main striker (Webo and later Eto’o).

 

This became really huge once Aboubakar came on. The former Cotonsport Garoua player is full of energy and technique but obviously needs to polish his tactical discipline. Whereas Eto’o usually retreated quickly to block the space behind him once a Cameroon offensive was punctured, Aboubakar often failed to do so.

 

Amara Traore realised the weakness and fielded Issiar Dia who was free to roam the left flank only having Amgwa to deal with. The tired right-back found it hard to contain the Dia’s energy. A hopeful kick by the Senegalese goalkeeper through the yawning gap left by Aboubakar, sparked a chain of poor play from  Enoh (who should have checked Dia) and Amgwa (who  retreated instead of taking on the Senegalese attacker). Dia’s beautiful cross met Demba Ba who beat Idriss Kameni.

 

 

Clemente talks tactics with Choupo-Moting at half-time of Cameroon v Senegal, Dakar, 26 March 2011

Clemente, it must be said, felt by half-time that Senegal could be beaten. He therefore fielded two attackers (Choupo-Moting and Aboubakar).

 

The alternatives

 

The Spaniard could have played Choupo-Moting (who came on for Bedimo) on the right; in which case he would have replaced Webo instead. As such, Eto’o would have played in the centre and Bedimo stayed on the left. Unlike Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting has the tactical wisdom to return to help is defenders as he showed on the left with Assou-Ekotto during this game. Moreover, he has played in this position for his German clubside Hamburg.

 

Somen Tchoyi who is naturally a number 8 but also has the experience of playing as a wide midfielder and a central striker could have come in for Enoh. This would have left Nguemo and Chedjou as destroyers and Tchoyi (or Choupo-Moting) supporting Eto’o from central midfield.

Again, a friendly on 29 March, would have offered a chance the technical staff to test these possibilities. That will sadly not be the case. There will hardly be another opportunity to have the team together again before the return-leg game against Senegal on June 4.

 

Lack of cohesion should never have existed if authorities (and the media) had not gone into witch-hunting mode after the World Cup, destroying the re-construction engineered by Paul Le Guen. But that is another story…

Cameroon’s sport authorities have appointed Javier Clemente as the head coach of the country’s national football team with former internationals Francois Omam Biyick and Jacques Songo’o as his assistants, State radio (CRTV) said on Tuesday 17 August 2010.

He replaces Paul Le Guen who resigned in June following a dismal World Cup campaign in South Africa.

Clemente, a former spain coach (1992-1998) and twice winner of the Spanish  league, is expected in Cameroon on 28 August to sign his contract, according to a release by the country’s ministry of sport.  

CAPTAINS AS DEPUTIES

Omam Biyick, a former captain of the Indomitable Lions is joining the Lions’ coaching staff for the first time. He is fondly remembered for scoring Cameroon’s goal against Argentina in the opening game of the 1990 World Cup.

His former Canon of Yaounde team-mate, Songo’o (also a former national team captain) was until Clemente’s appointment the interim manager. Songo’o was Le Guen’s deputy in-charge of goalkeeping and had held the same role under Portuguese born Arthur Jorge between February 2005 and February 2006.

“The new staff is taking over at a time when a detailed review of the organisation of football in general, and the national teams in particular, is near completion,” the statement said.

NEW RULES

There will be new internal rules for the national teams, Manga Zambo, the head of judicial affairs in Cameroon’s Ministry of Sport and Physical Education told CRTV.

“The main innovation will be a real disciplinary code…as a huge part of this document is about mutual respect, patriotism…and clearly stipulates what is banned from the national team,” Zambo said.

Local media and some football officials blamed lack of discipline, in-fighting and absence of commitment for Cameroon’s lacklustre performances at the World Cup.

These new document will also the various types of punishments – ranging from a simple reprimand, through suspension to outright eviction from the national team, Zambo added.

Whoever becomes Cameroon’s next head coach will have to watch a video of the Indomitable Lions’ 3-0 defeat of Poland. It wasn’t that spectacular. It wasn’t completely smooth. It wasn’t against the African Champions, talk less of the World Champions. It was simply the sweet taste of victory after a run of 10 games without a win.

What did Jacques Songo’o (interim coach) do that hadn’t been done since January 2010?

Surely, there must have been something different.

1. The team played in a 4-4-2 formation using old-fashioned wingers. Henri Bedimo on the  left  and Marcel Ndjeng on the right  drove Cameroon’s game forward alongside the over-lapping Benoit Assou-Ekotto (left-back) in particular, and Augustin Binya (right-back).

Many pundits claim this formation is dying or dead. They argue that most teams play with 3 to 5 midfielders who would out-number any central midfield of just two men. Variations of 4-3-3, such as 4-2-1-3 or 4-2-3-1 are now en vogue (Paul Le Guen should be smiling)! Nonetheless, Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United appeared in a 4-4-2 and beat a Chelsea side that was using 4-3-3 at the Community Shield (3-1 the scoreline).

Most managers say a formation alone is never really the decider. One needs the right men to make those formations work to create the necessary offensive and defensive moves.

2. There was cover/movement on the flanks. The presence of these “wingers” provided cover for the full-backs in the event of a quick counter-attack. At the World Cup in South Africa, once Assou-Ekotto ,the most daring of the full-backs, surged forward there was no-one to take the space he had left behind him. The opposing teams simply had to hoof the ball over to his vacant position to create dangerous counter-offensives.

With Bedimo ahead of  Assou-Ekotto, the left back didn’t need to make risky forays into the opposing camp.When he did Bedimo and/or Sebastien Bassong (centre-back) shifted into his zone. Ndjeng, Binya and Nicolas Nkoulou did the same on the right.

3. The virtues of team-work and solidarity on display. If the Lions dominated play for long spells  it was not due to the change in formation alone.  The players and different compartments (defence, midfield attack) put in a shift for each other. Football is a team sport. If a unit does not move to replace another part which is in difficulty, there are holes everywhere for the opponent to penetrate.

Aurelien Chedjou displayed such abnegation to plug the holes created by his mates. He confirmed that he is a midfielder and not a centre-back or full-back. His strengths being technique (seen in his two assists for Eto’o), positional awareness and ability to intercept opposition passes without reckless tackles.

4. Eto’o played as a central striker, scored and was subbed. The skipper played alongside Maxim Choupo-Moting in a front two that needs more games together. However, his brace was  typical goal-poacher’s art. He has scored in every game since he was re-positioned as a central striker. He put his experience to use by drifting to the left-flank and dropping deep into midfield positions to create opportunities for his attacking mates.  When he looked tired he was substituted. Oh yes, it can be done.

5. Improved set-pieces. Cameroon scored from a corner kick. It’s so rare it can make news headlines. There was designated specialist so, we didn’t see 7 different persons taking corners in a single match. Marcel Ndjeng showed great quality at this task. The balls  reached useful areas in the 18-yard unlike in the past. Free-kicks also need such discipline in the days ahead.

6. Hunger. This team wanted to win or at least prove that it wasn’t useless. The way the substitutes Bienvenue Tsama and Vincent Aboubacar stormed into the game is testimony to this. Tsama scored upon his second touch but the goal was disallowed for an offside position. Aboubacar slotted his first for the national team less than 10 minutes after coming-in for Eto’o. Is  such motivation and desire to impress down to a Jacques Songo’o effect alone? The Lions were simply hungry.

6. Consistency to build confidence  and partnerships. Songo’o chose to build confidence and understanding between Nkoulou and Bassong  at the centre of defence. I believe it’s the best way of solidifying what I consider the country’s best centre-back pairing.  They are comfortable with the ball, read the game well, hardly foul recklessly and they’re complementary. One of Paul Le Guen’s weaknesses was his constant tinkering. He hardly played with the same team for two games.

With Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia suspended for the game against Mauritius  Songo’o could have tested the Bikey-Bassong partnership from the start. When Bikey came on as a substitute he was heavy and out of pace. Maybe he’s rusty because the season is barely starting. He could also be low on confidence after dropping in the pecking order. In another game and against tougher opponents his fouls and wrong passes would have cost Cameroon severely.

7. The seeds Le Guen sowed have begun to germinate under Songo’o.   Apart from Eto’o, Makoun, Binya and Bikey who were established Lions prior to Le Guen’s tenure (and Bienvenue Tsama called-up for the first time by Songo’o), eleven players who appeared in that game were either handed their first cap and/or given regular starting places  under the French-born manager.

His legacy could be seen on the pitch against Poland. Le Guen chose to dare and give a chance to a new generation players in a country where gerontocracy rules supreme and leaders revel in their glories passed instead of paving the way for future conquests.

He ultimately failed to deliver a trophy or a World Cup quarter-final berth. He led the team to a terrible streak of poor results. He was stubborn, intractable, reportedly cost a fortune and he admitted that his casting for the World Cup was poor.

Many are surely glad to see the back of him, others don’t want his name pronounced again but let’s give him credit where it is due. He planted seeds called Aboubacar, Choupo-Moting, Enoh, Bong, Bedimo, Ndjeng, Mandjeck, Chedjou, Nkoulou, Bassong, Ndy Assembe that have begun to sprout.

As Jacques Songo’o, a Cameroon international from 1983 to 2002 (including two years as skipper), led this pride of  Lions to victory in Poland, souvenirs of the disappointing displays in Angola and South Africa crossed my mind. Things could have been different. Will they ever be different in Cameroon?

Is this man Cameroon's new coach?

Javier Clemente will be the head coach of Cameroon’s national football team for the next two years, various sports websites claimed on Thursday.

Cameroon has been without a manager since Paul Le Guen resigned in June after a disappointing display at the World Cup where the African side lost all three group games.

An array of technicians including German-born Klaus Toppmoller, South Africa’s Gordon Igesund and Serb Ljupko Petrovic have since been linked to the job.

Traditionally, Cameroon name their coaches by an official decision by the Minister of Sport.

If authorities confirm this appointment, the 61 year old Spaniard will have the task of completing the renovation of the Cameroon squad initiated by his predecessor and qualifying the country to the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012.

Clemente is a former manager of the Spanish national team (1992-1998) who led the team in a memorable run of 36 games without defeat. He led the Spanish team to the World Cup in 1994 in the U.S.A and 1998 in France as well as the European Championships in 1996.

He didn’t win trophies with the national side but he had won the Spanish league  with Athletic Bilbao in 1983 and 1984. He led Espanyol Barcelona to the final of the UEFA Cup in 1988. Cameroon’s legendary goalkeeper and former interim manager, Thomas Nkono, was part of that Espanyol team.

Clemente has coached out of his country, first as a manager of French club Olympic de Marseille and much later as the head coach of the Serbian national team from July 2006 to December 2007.

ANOTHER EXPATRIATE ?

Debate has been rife in Cameroon on whether to appoint a national or an expatriate at the helm of the team. The local media have urged the authorities to hand the job to a former national team great – suggesting the likes of  Omam Biyick Patrick Mboma, Eugene Ekeke, Kunde Emmanuel and Joseph Antione Bell.

Commentators on internet forums seemed to favour a local coach after former Cameroon goalkeeper and skipper, Jacques Songo’o managed the Indomitable Lions to a 3-0 victory in an international friendly played on 11 August. Songo’o was goalkeeping trainer under Le Guen.

During a recent visit to Brazil, President Paul Biya of Cameroon told senators in the South American country that he would like a Brazilian to train Cameroon at some point. This led to speculation that the appointment of a new coach had been delayed in order to match the head of state’s wishes.

A Cameroon football federation official said on Monday that the appointment of a coach will be accompanied by a set of new decisions creating a new organisation of the various national teams including new positions which needed clearance by the government which heavily funds the team.

It is understood that there will be a post of team director, along the lines of the role played by Oliver Bierhoff in Germany.

ETO’O, CLEMENTE MEET AGAIN?

If he effectively becomes the Lions’ manager, it would be interesting to see his relationship with the team captain Samuel Eto’o after both men had a spat in 2006. Eto’o was caught on camera spitting in the direction of Exposito  (an Athletico Bilbao player) and Clemente (then manager of Bilbao) reportedly referred to the act as: “something that people who had just come down out of the trees did.”

He denied that he had racially abused Eto’o  as the media were reporting while the Cameroonian insisted that he did not intend to spit at Exposito and also said Clemente had contacted him to explain the circumstances in which his comments were made.

“I’ve had the chance to speak to Clemente and he has said some very nice things to me,” he told a Spanish television programme, according to a BBC report.

This will be Cameroon’s 14th change of manager in a decade and the first Spaniard to hold the position.


Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions resume service on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 in an international friendly against Poland. It is supposed to be a fresh start after their dreadful World Cup in South Africa last June. But something doesn’t feel right. There is that hazy feeling among fans that they’ve been here, seen and heard this before.

A friendly. In August. A new coach. Transition.

On 12 August 2009 Cameroon were playing  for the first time under a new coach, Paul Le Guen.  One year later they are under another coach (albeit an interim) Jacques Songo’o.  It is the déjà vu syndrome that has been plaguing Cameroonian football in general, and the Lions in particular.

Flash-back to June 2009.  Otto Pfister abandoned ship before a crucial World Cup qualifier and the team was left under the interim leadership of the goalkeeping trainer, Thomas N’Kono. He was once a captain of the  Indomitable Lions and used to play for Canon Yaounde in the past.

Fast-forward to June 2010. Le Guen, who was recruited in July 2009, threw-in the towel after the country’s worst World Cup showing.  His goalkeeping coach, Jacques Songo’o, has had to step-in as interim boss. Songo’o is also a former national team skipper and an alumni of Canon of Yaounde.

It’s so similar you may want to pinch yourself to be sure it’s not a dream.

A COACH PER YEAR

In the last 10 years (since 2000) Cameroon have changed their head coach and/or coaching staff  a whooping 13 times. The managers have included: Pierre Lechantre (twice), Jean Paul Akono, Robert Corfu, Winfried Schaeffer, Arthur Jorge, Aarie Haan, Jules Nyongha (twice), Otto Pfister, N’kono (+ Jean Paul Akono, Kaham Michel, Ndtoungou Mpile), Paul Le Guen, Jacques Songo’o…

The average lifespan at the helm of the Indomitable Lions is 1 year 3 months (skewed by Winfried Schaeffer’s long-haul 2001 to 2004).

It is nearly impossible for a national team coach to build a trophy winning squad (or even runners-up) in such a short period.

Managers have roughly 7 dates in a calendar year (apart from full tournaments)  for international matches. They usually have about 3-5 days ahead of such fixtures to work with their squads. They need time to understand their players, build cohesion and ensure that their chosen tactics work.

Ultimate success at a major tournament is the result of continuity and vision rather than madness.

Proof is that countries that have won the World Cup or the European Championships and/or finished as runners up in these tournaments in the past decade don’t drop coaches like a super-model changes clothes.

Spain, the current World Cup and European Cup holders, have had 4 head coaches since 2000. Germany and Greece have had 3 managers  and France have seen only 4 (including Laurent Blanc) within that same period. Holland have changed their coach 5 times; Portugal 4 times; Italy 6 and Brazil 5.

The pharoahs of Egypt have won the Africa Cup of Nations thrice in a row since 2006 with the same head coach.

Cameroon’s authorities though, seem not to have noticed  that the Lions’ recent successful spells were under long serving coaches: Schaeffer (2002 Africa Cup of Nations trophy and runners-up 2003 Confederations Cup) and Pierre Lechantre from 1998 to 2000(winner of the 2000 Africa Cup).

ALWAYS READY TO RE-START

It is tempting to think French writer and 1947 Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Andre Gide,  was referring to Cameroon when he wrote that “everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over a again.”

Admittedly, not all long managerial spells are productive. Yet, even Raymond Domenech led France to a final of the World Cup in 2006 and Dunga won a Copa America and a FIFA Confederations Cup at the helm of Brazil!

Cameroon’s Minister of Sport and the chairman of the football federation (FECAFOOT) have said publicly that the next coach (oh yes, N°14) will be handed a 4-year-contract. They’ve both talked about their determination to put an end to short-termism and the hiring of fire-fighting coaches to save Cameroon’s often burning footballing house.

That’s as far as speeches go. Reality says that since Le Guen resigned in June they have not succeeded to name a replacement. An appointment was expected this week but it was delayed. A FECAFOOT official told a news conference in Poland that a major clean-up of the organisation and staffing  of national teams is underway and that requires approval from government before a coach is officially named.

It smacks of the story-line that followed Arthur Jorge’s resignation after the Africa Cup in February 2006. Dutch born, Aarie Haan was only appointed in September, a week to the first game of the qualifiers to the 2008 Africa Cup against Rwanda. Jules Nyongha, the interim, had already summoned the players for the game. Haan’s tenure mostly resembled  a joke that reached circus proportions when he announced his resignation via an email to the press  6 months later.

Are we headed down that same road?  A déjà vu of sorts?

Albert Einstein, a Nobel Prize winner, described insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Surely, those who run the Indomitable Lions don’t want to be described as insane?

Poland has published a list of 22 Cameroon players (yet to be announced by the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot)) to face the Polish national team in a friendly on 11 August 2010. At least 8 players who defended Cameroon’s colours at the World Cup in South Africa are not in the squad available on the Polish Federation’s website.

Le Guen's first Cameroon squad 12 Aug 2009

It is unclear who named the team. Cameroon is without a head-coach since Paul Le Guen resigned from the position after a dismal performance at the World Cup.

Rumour relayed by local media suggests that Jacques Songo’o, who was the goalkeeping trainer under Le Guen, picked the players for this game pending the appointment of a new coaching staff.
The same sources claim Songo’o was given a “helping hand” by officials who wanted to drop a “clique” of players accused of stirring trouble that led to the team’s early exit from the tournament in South Africa.
According to media reports, Songo’o had declined to “sanction” these players on the grounds that he is not the team’s manager.
However,  Alexander Song, Achille Emana, Idriss Carlos Kameni and Rigobert Song (who retired from international football this Sunday) considered as the trouble-makers  are not on the list. It suggests a possible involment of Fecafoot and Ministry of Sport in the selection process.
Geremi Njitap, Souleymanou Hamidou, Idrissou Mohammadou, and Achille Webo who featured in all three games at the World Cup have also been left out.
The list  includes goalkeeper Patrick Tingyemb, midfielder Marcel Ndjeng  and striker Jacques Zoua who were part of Le Guen’s preliminary squad for the World Cup but did not make the final cut.  Defenders: André Stephan Bikey, Gilles Binya and Henri Bedimo and attacker Paul Alo’o Efoulou who were  at the Africa Cup of Nations have also been recalled.
Henri Tsama who plays for Swiss club, Young Boys Bernes, will be  the only new player in the camp, should Fecafoot confirm this squad.
The hide an seek game around who selected the players, the cloud surrounding the appointment of a new head-coach and the stories about officials who cashed-in (or did not take) more than their deserved mission allowances during the World Cup means Cameroon has still not learned that dis-organisation, mis-management, in-fighting, cheating and lack of vision does not pay.
The failure at the World Cup should have been an opportunity for a fresh start; but it seems the cliché that old habits die hard still has its place in Cameroon football.
Here is the full list as published on the website of the Polish Football Federation:

Bramkarze (Goalkeepers)

Guy Roland N’dy Assembe (FC Nantes)
Patrick Tignyemb (Bloemfontein Celtic)

Obrońcy (Defenders)

Stéphane Bikey (Burnley FC), Augustin Gilles Binya (Neuchatel Xamax), Henri Bedimo (RC Lens), Sébastien Bassong (Tottenham Hotspur), Nicolas Nkoulou (AS Monaco), Benoit Assou Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur), Aurélien Chedjou (Lille OSC)
Gaetan Bong (Valenciennes)

Środkowi (Midfielders)

Stéphane Mbia (Olympique Marsylia), Marcel Ndjeng (FC Augsburg), Jean II Makoun (Olympique Lyon), Georges Mandjeck (Stade Rennais), Joel Matip (FC Shalke 04), Enoh Eyong (Ajax Amsterdam)

Napastnicy (Attackers)

Henri Ntsama (BSC Young Boys Bern), Eric Choupo-Moting (Hamburger SV), Vincent Aboubakar (Valenciennes), Paul Alo’o Efoulou (AS Nancy), Jacques Zoua (FC Basel), Samuel Eto’o Fils (Inter Milan