Cameroon: Daunting challenges await new FECAFOOT President Samuel Eto’o

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Samuel Eto’o, new president of the Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT

The Cameroon Football Federation better known in its French acronym FECAFOOT now has a new president in the person of four-time African footballer of the year and two-time AFCON winner Samuel Eto’o. the all-time leading goal scorer of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon defeated incumbent Seidou Mbombo Njoya 41 votes to 31 in the election that took place on December 11, 2021.

Samuel Eto’o ran his campaign on fighting corruption and the promotion of women and youth football amongst others. In his election campaign, he said “it is time to rebuild our football and ggivethe game the grandeur, it deserves”. Samuel Eto’o equally promised to give him a salary to the building of amateur football.

There are certainly tough days ahead for the new president and now Pan African Visions takes a look at some of the challenges that await Samuel Eto’o from the smooth organization of the 33rd edition of the AFCON to the construction of the Bamenda Stadium and the rebranding of Cameroon football.

Organizing AFCON 2021

This is the immediate preoccupation of the Samuel Eto’o-led FECAFOOT Executive Committee as continuing efforts to put up a beautiful AFCON void of polemics. Samuel Eto’o has been one of the ex-players who have been very vocal about the beauty of the Africa Cup of Nations and why African players in Europe should be allowed to participate.

“If the Euros took place in the middle of the pandemic, with full stadiums in several cities in Europe and there was no problem, why wouldn’t AFCON be played in Cameroon?” the former FC Barcelona and Inter striker told Canal+ in an interview.

“Or are you trying to say that like we have always been treated, we Africans are not worth anything so we have to put up with it? I do not see why AFCON would not take place. The Cameroon FA that I represent will defend hosting this competition to the end.”

“The Cameroon Football Federation assures players and supporters of the 24 qualified countries and those amateur footballers who wish to visit Cameroon, that all sanitary and safety measures have been taken by the government to guarantee the competition goes ahead successfully,” Samuel Eto’o added.

Cameroon will begin their quest for a sixth AFCON against Burkina Faso and Samuel Eto’o will be front and centre of activities. He will certainly wish that the first victory for his mandate comes with the national team picking up the trophy.

Construction of the Bamenda Stadium

Bamenda, the chief town of North West Region has seen presidents come and gone and all of them keep promising the construction of a modern-day pitch in the region with no result achieved. Bamenda boasts two Elite 1 teams (YOSA and PWD Bamenda) and one Elite 2 team (Rangers Bafut) and a female team in the top flight (Vision Sport Bamenda), yet the region is barren with a modern football pitch.

The Bamenda stadium before it was closed for maintenance was noted to be amongst the highest in terms of gate takings and when PWD faces YOSA, it is a dwell that attracts scores of people to the pitch. Now, the game can barely boast of a hundred persons because the region has just the YOSA training ground and coupled with the security situation, many fans don’t go again to watch games there.

If Samuel Eto’o wants to edge his name forever in the minds and hearts of the people of the North West, the construction of the Bamenda Stadium will certainly do that job.

What will happen to the 2021 Cup of Cameroon final?

This is another question that Samuel Eto’o will have to contend with and the competition looks likely not to go ahead, something which will be a blow for the two teams that have been preparing for ages.

PWD Bamenda and Les Astres of Douala are the two teams that have been waiting for the day to play the final. The Cup of Cameroon is tied to the Presidency and it is the president who decides when the competition can be played – something that has made the two teams train endlessly without any way forward.

“This is our time,” PWD President Pascal Abunde famously said back in July and with how everything is going, it will be unfortunately not the time of PWD Bamenda.

There is, however, still hope for the final to be played after the AFCON finals – in February. It is a slim chance but still possible as the championship in Cameroon is scheduled to begin after the AFCON. So, all hope is not lost for Samuel Eto’o to get the presidency involved for the Cup of Cameroon final to be played.

Rebuilding Cameroon football

When he announced his candidacy for the FECAFOOT top job, Samuel Eto’o said “it is time to rebuild our football and give the game the grandeur, it deserves”. He ran his campaign on fighting corruption and the promotion of women’s football. Mismanagement and infighting have plagued FECAFOOT for the past years and many of the activities have been going on in offices (courts cases) than on the football pitch. The football season last year was constantly being interrupted with various courts cases and also the fighting between the now cancelled LFPC and FECAFOOT.

With all this fighting, the people who have been suffering are the players, coaches and those who run these various clubs, a situation that needs to change drastically. This has made Cameroon football constantly miss in sending their representative for the CAF inter-club competitions and also affected the performances of the representatives who mostly go into the game without playing competitive football.

The tides seem to be changing as shortly after taking office, the new FECAFOOT president met with the former head of the LFPC (Gen Pierre Semengue) with many having the feeling that the mandate of the LFPC may be brought back. Abdouraman Hamadou Babba, one of the individuals who has constantly been taking FECAFOOT to court on illegalities has cut a slight undertone with signs he may work with the new bureau despite him having sent a document to FIFA against the December 11 election.

Samuel Eto’o is the AFCON all-time leading goal scorer

Given some regions befitting stadiums

Samuel Eto’o in his manifesto promised to build some ten stadia across the country, a move that has been received with great optimism especially in some regions that cannot even boast of a befitting football pitch. And visiting the South Region shortly after he was elected president, Samuel Eto’o promised the construction of two stadia in the region.

Like many footballers who hope to one day make it big on the global stage, the pitches where these youngsters play their trade is not something to write home about. It is just recently that some regions have been blessed with the construction of modern-day pitches due to the organization of the Women’s AFCON and now the 33rd edition of the AFCON.

“This type of stadium encourages me a lot and I believe that if we had such a stadium in my village (Nkambe), we would have been very far today and we would have had good players like Samuel Eto’o and Roger Miller but we could not make it due to the nature of the fields,” Rientes Njie Tanyu, who left his village for Baffoussam said in an interview while talking about the beauty of the Baffoussam Omnisport Stadium.

“As a good footballer, this type of stadium encourages us to play. When you find yourself in such a stadium, you just find yourself playing without being told to.”

The all-time leading goal scorer has a lot on his plate and to him, he cannot achieve all that he has for the Cameroonian football family without the collaboration of all – even those who were against him during the election exercise. But as he did with his glittering football career, the challenge of running the federation will not be above him.

“I won’t say I have a dream-like Martin Luther King… My greatest wish is you hear every Cameroonian say the dream has come true at the end of our mandate,” Samuel Eto’o told his executive committee members during their first Ordinary Session.

*Culled from January Issue of PAV Magazine

 

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