Cameroon’s AFCON Win Threatens a Split Between Loyalty and Survival
The general assumption prior to the 2017 AFCON games concluded that the current Cameroon squad was one of the worst teams in the country’s history but against all odds, the Indomitable Lions conquered African football and lifted the trophy
Beyond their wildest dreams, the championship win surely means a lot to the players whose impressive role was as solid as it was intact but is now at the risk of painting a different picture for those who snubbed the chance at representing the 2017 champions, giving Cameroon the edge to incite ridicule.
“There was a lot of trouble before, players who wouldn’t come with us,” coach Hugo Broos said.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”OK, it’s their decision. But maybe they are saying now to themselves, ‘S**t! Why didn’t I go with them?'”[/perfectpullquote]
“We came here and I think nobody thought we would go so far. We tried to get through the first round. We did it. So we said, ‘OK, let’s see what happens against Senegal’. We won the game again.
“Then you get a boost of confidence and from that time we believed that if we got a bit lucky, we could win the final.”
Joel Matip (Liverpool), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Schalke) and Allan Nyom (West Bromwich), were among seven Cameroon players to forego the tournament in favor of club football. However, Nyom’s response was in contrast to Broos’ remarks following the win.
“Let him know that I don’t have any regrets,” Nyom told BBC.
“I heard what Broos said. It made me laugh because he knew what happened and he knew why I was not there.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It’s true, at first I didn’t want to go, but afterward I changed my mind. But he knew that and he knows what he told me, so I have no worries, no regrets.[/perfectpullquote]
“If before the tournament they had told me ‘Cameroon is going to win and you are not part of the squad’, I don’t mind because I’m happy I’m playing for my club – it’s much more important for me.
“If I had been there, it could stall my club career.”
Considerably, African teams have suffered all too well at the expense of mismanagement which has jeopardized the quality of African football. Several teams are witnesses to the improvisations and sacrifices forced on players to dig deeper and beyond their means, in order to deliver a memorable but also, quickly forgotten performance.
In an all too familiar scenario, the Indomitable Lions recently boycotted the bonus offer before the semifinal against Ghana, whereas the focus should have been on how to qualify for the next stage.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”As a group, we are not happy with the bonus. There is a lack of respect, and I defend my players.[/perfectpullquote]
“Even though we are not happy with the money, we are still putting in good performances on the field,” Broos said before the semifinals.
The long-standing financial disputes between the players and Cameroon Football Federation is well known. Ghana has faced the same challenges and was lashed with criticism for selfishly putting financial pain before status gain, a misunderstanding Broos was quick to wipe off Cameroon’s image.
“Don’t think we are asking for the world, but what they give us now is not good, really,” Broos added.
“We have trained every day. I read in the papers that the players did not train but I had given them a free day so it is not because they are not happy with the money.
“And even though we are not happy, we still have good performances on the field. This is very important it shows that the players are not here for the money, they are here to play for their country, for the supporters and for themselves.
That indeed they did however, critics shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the fact that football is a job which calls for logical and practical decision-making especially, when a player has to juggle between national duty, and an easily snuffed club career.
Emmanuel Adebayor had not played competitive football for at least 6 months but he was Togo’s anchor man at the 2017 AFCON. The same cannot be said for his once revered club status before eventually joining the Turkish League.
It is almost as if African players are cornered to decide between a long-time career and a 50-50 national championship win. Not to question national pride, but how is a player motivated to give his all for his country, when the reward is little-to-zero?
There is no guarantee that a first-team player in a top club will regain his position after weeks away, playing for his country. Not forgetting that January is the toughest month for many leagues who face a do-or-die in pursuit of a championship.
The difference with this year’s AFCON is that players are out rightly making the decision to play for their countries. CAF’s role is also questionable as has been evident in the poor quality of the pitches, training grounds and not pressing for a re-schedule of the tournament to best suit the availability of foreign-based players.
While this may be the case, Africans are very passionate football fans who place their faith and pride in their players, both at home and in the highly ranked leagues but every team needs structure to cement future success
Featured photo: Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar and teammates now have their names written in history after defying all odds to win a fifth Africa Cup of Nations. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)