To hell with soccer. Radical politics now!
By Penwatts Lumumba
Nineteenth century Russian philosopher and revolutionary, Karl Marx, once said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. In Cameroon , it is safe to say that football is the opium of the masses.
For decades now, the Yaounde regime has taken advantage of the Cameroonians’ addictive obsession with football to effectively defuse political tensions, disarm opposition and perpetuate itself in power.
It makes Machiavellian sense for Yaounde authorities to exploit Cameroon ’s football prowess for political ends. The country is a gifted football nation and her national team, the Indomitable Lions, are one of the most capped teams on the African continent. For years now, the Indomitable Lions have almost always been rated the best African team on the monthly ranking of world football governing body, FIFA
But the government’s reliance on football as a firewall to opposition and dissent, although well thought out, is equally a result of chance.
There is no obvious strategy to manage football in a way that would ensure good performance. But paradoxically, the Indomitable Lions have generally performed well over the years.
This can partly be explained by the fact that the Indomitable Lions have hardly relied on local talent. Apart from the 1982 World Cup team, when the current regime was not yet in power, most subsequent selections have comprised of predominantly foreign based players. In most cases, the start-up line-up has been 100 percent foreign-based players.
So, for nearly three decades, Cameroonian authorities have relied on competitive European professional leagues to feed the Indomitable Lions with world class players. With this professional powerhouse and a bit of luck, things have generally worked out. Between 1982 and 2002, the Indomitable Lions won four African Nations Cup trophies, one Olympic gold, and participated in five World Cup tournaments.
There are countless occasions when most analysts predicted a political crisis in Cameroon , but the brilliant outings of the Indomitable Lions have saved the day.
It appears that the authorities became complacent, in the belief that the Cameroon national team is destined to always perform well.
In nearly three decades, little effort has been made to improve local football with the result that no Cameroonian team has won a continental trophy in 30 years.
But obviously, Cameroon ’s football luck is running out. In 2006, Cameroon failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. With their current power showing in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, the Indomitable Lions are unlikely to be present in South Africa .
In two matches, the indomitable Lions have not succeeded to score a single goal. They lost 0-1 to Togo in the first qualifier and had a disappointing 0-0 tie on home turf against Morocco on June 7.
After that match, tens of thousands of disappointed fans cursed the authorities for mismanaging Cameroon ’s football.
An angry fan was overheard yelling: “To hell with football! Shame on this bad government! It is now time for radical politics”.
That sentiment seemed to be shared by tens of thousands of dazed spectators as they staggered out of the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on June 7.
This was a curious indictment of the authorities’ poor management of Cameroon ’s football for they did not do a better job in the past. Foreign-based players simply helped the authorities to conceal their ineptitude.
Fortunately, the scales are beginning to fall off the eyes of ordinary Cameroonians. Bad luck now seems to be shaking many Cameroonians out of the football stupor. It is high time there is a national debate on Cameroon ’s broken economy and sterile politics. Whether Cameroon qualifies for the 2010 World Cup or not, the country badly needs to focus on a wide-range of important issues rather than sticking to the parochial obsession with football.