Cameroon’s Prime Minister Philomen Yang, Sports Minister Adoum Garoua and Joseph Owona, president of the FIFA appointed Normalization Committee early today morning Monday June 9 2014, breath a collective sigh of relief when the official Cameroon squad, including the 23 players took off for Brazil from the Yaounde International airport. The special Angolan flight departed 18 hours late after a strike by players over match bonuses, a regular feature of the team and players in six of the seven world cups Cameroon has taken part in since their first participation in the world football jamboree in Spain in 1982.
Unconfirmed reports say the Cameroon government accepted to pay a penalty of more than 200 million frs CFA for the delayed chartered flight before the Angolan authorities accepted to carry the official delegation to Brazil. Iroko Magazine learnt the national carrier Camair-Co did not have any available [lane for the flight and had to resort to a foreign country to ease transportation of the delegation.
Following the Lion’s lack lustre 1-0 win over Moldavia in their last qualifying gala match in front of thousands of fans at the Yaounde Omnisport stadium on Saturday June 7 2014, the Prime Minister was forced to give the official flag to German coach Volke Finke when Samuel Eto’o Fils and his teammates failed to turn up for the ceremony. That evening, they had warned sports officials in a memorandum they will not be flying to Brazil if they did not get all their match bonuses paid before departure, a threat sports officials as usual, did not take seriously.
Prof Owona and Minister Adoum Garoua had to hold crisis talks with the players after they categorically refused to travel early yesterday Sunday June 8 2014. Following the negotiations during which FECAFOOT surprisingly had to borrow money from government to pay its own part of the money the players were demanding, each received 60 millions frs cash before they accepted to travel. The money includes 6% of the 8 million dollars FIFA paid Cameroon for qualifying for the world cup
After missing the 9am take off time, Prof Owona aware of the consequences this will cause including a financial penalty to the chartered Angolan airlines and a possible backlash from supporters, quickly released a statement explaining the reasons for the delay
“…the postponement of the flight was due to the insistence by players of the indomitable lions which they communicated to officials of MINSEP and FECAFOOT in the evening of Saturday to get all all their match bonuses before any flight…” The statement emphasised that FIFA only pays participation fees to football federations three months after the end of the world cup but did not mention that FIFA also pays participation countries money after qualification to help with preparations for the world cup.
Fecafoot and Sports ministry officials are placing the blame for the present crisis squarely on the shoulders of team captain Samuel Eto’o Fils who from past experiences, insisted the players maintain their strike action because promises of Fecafoot and Sports ministry officials were not worth the paper they were printed on. He has played for the Lions for more than sixteen years and knows about promises they make and never keep after the competitions end. Iroko Magazine learnt sports officials were so angry with Eto’o Fils they only stopped short of dropping him from the team because of the crucial role he will play in the attack line of the Lions. There are indications the Brazil world cup could be the last time Eto’o ever plays for the Lions.
However, there is nationwide support for Eto’o Fils for standing his grounds and refusing to bulge in the face of pressure from the Prime Minister, Prof owona and Fecafoot officials. Some detractors however accuse the team captain of holding the nation to ransom.
The Lions will play their first match against Mexico on Friday June 13 2014 and with this shambolic preparations, difficult team cohesion and general confusion in the Lion’s camp, are not expected to go far in the competitions.