Cameroon's dysfunction in need of correction
The actions were uncalled for, the outrage warranted and the embarrassment glowed over all of Africa. Cameroon brought shame on the continent, not because they exited the World Cup before it was even a week old, but because of how they went about it.
The ill discipline and infighting will be remembered more than the inefficiency that saw them concede four goals. There had to be some raging and it was led by Cameroon's coach Volker Finke, who labelled the actions of his team "disgusting." Now, there has to be some introspection, and it has started with former Cameroon player Patrick Suffo, who told the BBC about disunity, a dysfunctional administration and undelivered promises as the reasons for another taming of the Indomitable Lions.
"From what I see from far, there is no togetherness at all. Eleven players but no togetherness at all," he said in an interview on the Africa Today podcast. "We always say the same thing: 'from now on we are going to change our team,' and it's always the same. Nothing ever changes, because we have the same people in the same positions, running the same football."
Suffo played for Cameroon more than a decade ago but believes the same issues he faced in his 29 games are still in existence today, starting with the lack of cohesion among the men on the field. Even though Finke's approach is to emphasise the collective goal over individual aims, Cameroon's squad treat each other like strangers, and there's a good reason for that.
All but two of Cameroon's World Cup squad ply their trade overseas and have done so from a young age. They are unfamiliar with each other but well aware of their own achievements. They are perhaps the centre of their own universes and have been for a long time.
In 2010, the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) compiled a paper titled "Killing Soccer in Africa," in which they explained how Cameroon's football is centered on singularity rather than team success. "The tendency in this country is that immediately when a young player starts shining, he is hurriedly put onto the next plane and shipped abroad to be sold to a foreign club," Prince Ndoki Mukete, a former assistant secretary-general of the Cameroon FA (FECAFOOT) said.
The people to blame for the talent drain from Cameroon are the administrators, whom FAIR said were so concerned with their own well-being that they forgot about the people they were supposed to serve. "Cameroon football is a victim of treachery, fraud, financial trafficking, corruption of the actors and personnel, impunity on the part of its main stakeholders, falsification of official documents and the ages of footballers as well as the indifference of officialdom," Jean-Lambert Nang, a former FECAFOOT general manager, wrote in his book, "Desperate Football House."
Cameroon's FA has been guilty of failing to honour its end of a deal to renovate stadiums in partnership with mobile telephone operator MTN in 2007, not paying its own staff for almost four years and not playing players allowances when on tour. The government stepped in to rescue them in the first instance, FIFA provided money in the second, and as for the third, reports continue to suggest that a minister pocketed those funds.
When FAIR put together their report, Cameroon was ranked 146th out of 180 in corruption terms. Transparency.org now has them at 144 out of 177 countries surveyed, which is not really an improvement. Money is one of the things that seems to go missing most in that country, so it can hardly be a surprise that the players had an argument about bonuses before this World Cup too. Whether they deserve them is a separate debate, but what their unhappiness points to is the continuing friction between them and their administration.
A tangled mess behind the scenes translated to what we saw on the field, and there is reason to be worried. FAIR's investigation also took them to seven other countries, three of whom are playing in this World Cup. Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria were also fingered for maladministration, along with South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The trio in Brazil all need wins from their next matches to advance out of the group stage, and apart from Ivory Coast, whose pedigree is probably the most reputed of Africa's big five, they do not look likely to get that. Ghana and Nigeria underperformed in their opening games, and although officials from their FAs do not take the field, maybe their actions still have an effect.
It's little wonder then that Danny Jordaan, the South African football association president, said that federations on the continent need to get their houses in order financially if they hope to secure more spots in future World Cups. Jordaan identified administrative and financial problems as stunting the development of football on the continent and hoped the establishment of FIFA's audit and compliance committee would help solve some of those. They should start with Cameroon.