Sihle Blose

The last decade of Cameroon’s league football has been profoundly challenging and mired by scandals that went from scandal to scandal. Over the years, the Cameroon national league has been bedeviled by interference from the government, allegations of corruption, and unkept promises from leaders. The league has been regularly disrupted, sponsors have deserted it, and players have lost faith. The new light at the end of the tunnel asks whether Cameroonian clubs are ready to go professional again.

Cameroonian Sports Journalist Daniel Ekonde says, “Professionalism in Cameroon national league is still a farfetched dream because many Cameroonian clubs have gone down over the years because of the league’s quality. Since 2011, when the authorities in Cameroon decided to professionalise the league, financial sustainability has always been a problem; the league now compared to 2005 – 2008 is far from being standard; in those years, the league was profitable.”

Ekonde continues to say “This is mainly because authorities in Cameroon decided to professionalise the league without following the necessary steps, like in South Africa; here in Cameroon, they jumped from amateurism to professionalism without thinking about the wellbeing of a club, the sustainability of the club, if they have their stadia, offices, none of that was talked about so that is the problem we have in Cameroon”.

The arrival of Samuel Eto’o at the FECAFOOT (Cameroon FA) headquarters in December last year brought a new era for Cameroonian league football. In a move seeking to address all these problems, a quick move towards getting league football back on track was made with a new temporary format being adopted.

Cameroon Elite One new format comprises 25 teams split into two pools (13 in Pool A and 12 in Pool B). The league shall be played in 5 cities namely: Yaounde, Bafoussam [and Mbouda], Limbe and Douala.

At the end of the group phase, the first two teams in each pool will lock horns in a play-off to reach the final. Group A winners will face Group B runners-up. Likewise, Group B winners will clash with Group A runners-up. The two winners of the ties will face off in a final to decide the league’s champion, while the losers will battle each other to determine the league’s 3rd and 4th-placed sides.

The new format will see five teams relegated to Elite Two, the last two teams in each pool, and the loser of a relegation play-off between the 11th-placed side in Pool A and the 10th-placed side in Pool B.

“This is a short-term measure adopted by FECAFOOT; the league will run for four months. They are doing it to round off this year so that they can properly organise the football championship next season(2022-23),” – Ekonde said

“There are 25 clubs because of so many problems, such as clubs that were relegated refusing to go down and the disruption from the takeover of the Cameroon Professional Football league, which caused a lot of problems between them and FECAFOOT.”

This intervention is to ensure that Cameroon can finish the league before June 22nd, 2022, a deadline set by CAF for members associations to submit their reps for continental club football for the 2022-23 season.

The arrival of Samuel Eto’o has also seen the restructuring and formalisation of the league’s sponsorship deal with MTN. As a result of this initiative, Cameroon Elite One champions for the 2021-22 season will walk home with 50 million francs CFA. FECAFOOT is equally working with SYNAFOC to ensure players receive their salaries as stipulated on their contracts with clubs. FECAFOOT has also committed to handling the clubs traveling and accommodation expenses.

“Things look promising because Samuel Eto’o has been able to bring together the veterans of the league, there seems to be some kind of a compromise, and things are going well; we can only hope that next season will look good” – Ekonde.