BY ATIA TILARIOUS AZOHNWI
After walking heads high from the 2017 African Cup of Nations, Cameroon’s football seems to have taken that final leap into the dark. Even the normalisation committee put in place to normalise the country’s football could not work within normal time.
The premature ousting of Eding Sport FC of Lekie and New Stars Douala from continental assignments this year raises more questions than answers on the competitiveness of Cameroon’s local championship – the professional league.
The two Cameroonian flag bearers in African competitions, Eding Sport FC of Lekié and New Stars of Douala were flushed out of this year’s continental football jamboree. Eding Sport lost to Plateau United of Nigeria 1-0 in Yaounde on Wednesday, February 21, 2018. In the away leg played in Nigeria, Eding Sport was beaten 3-0.
The club has therefore been eliminated from the African Champions League with a 4- 0 aggregate loss to Nigeria. As if to add salt to the country’s battered football image, cup holders, New Stars of Douala, failed to qualify for the second round of the CAF Confederations Cup after they lost to Deportivo Neifang of Equatorial Guinea 0-1 in Bata, on Tuesday, February 20, 2018.
Their early elimination has brought about many questions on the level of the national championship in the country. Cameroonian clubs have put up a mediocre performance in African competitions in recent years. Since the introduction of the Professional Football League of Cameroon in 2011, only Coton Sport of Garoua has reached the second round of the African Champions League.
The reasons for the early exit of Eding Sport FC and New Stars Douala from the African Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup are many and varied. Eding Sport and New Stars went into the African competitions without having had enough competitions at home. Before playing the first leg CAF Champions League game, Plateau United of Nigeria were second in their home championship with 15 points after seven play days. Cameroon’s professional football league was yet to start.
The national championship only started this month with only two playing days while their opponents have had several playing days. That alone had a negative impact on the Cameroonian players. Internal squabbles within the clubs were also another reason for the fall.
Players of Deportivo Neifang of Equatorial Guinea and Plateau United of Nigeria were sharp and alert, while those of Eding Sport and New Stars were rustic.
Eding Sport, for instance, is yet to settle the quarrel between the president and the coach. That has left the team in total disarray. The same power struggle within New Stars of Douala exposed the team to the wolves.
It is alleged that the squad travelled to Bata for the return leg game in three separate groups. Passport related issues are to blame. Even though Eding Sport and New Stars brought in new players it did not help the situation. The new players had few matches played and were not yet familiar with their new environment. Other key players were yet to join their new teams.
The performance of Cameroon at the CHAN 2018 in Morocco also questions the level of the national championship. Many fans are hoping that the Cameroonian teams will do better next year. But that will only be possible if the there is a competitive national championship in the country.