What now for Cameroon?

Posted by Firdose Moonda

What a strange situation Cameroon find themselves in.

They are on top of their World Cup qualifying group after being awarded a 3-0 win over Togo, who were deemed to have fielded an ineligible player, and need to beat Libya, who lie second, to advance to the playoffs. But there is every chance they will not even be able to compete in the match because of FIFA's provisional suspension of their FA.

- FIFA issues Cameroon suspension

To begin the dissection of this complicated scenario, we first have to separate the two issues. Cameroon's benefiting from a Togolese oversight has nothing to do with their administrators' breaching of a FIFA regulation that there should be no government interference in footballing structures. They just happened to coincide at the same time.

FIFA have had their hands full investigating countries for including suspended players in their teams, an issue that was discussed on these pages a few days' ago. Togo, like Ethiopia, were found guilty of either not knowing the rules or brazenly flouting them and were punished accordingly.

What's worse, perhaps, is that they are the only team unaffected by their mistake. Togo were last in their qualifying pool and stay there but the DRC have reason to feel aggrieved. Cameroon's win puts them out of contention so the group will be decided by a straight shoot-out between Cameroon and Libya, if Cameroon are able to play.

The final round of fixtures is scheduled for September 6, which gives Cameroon two months to "allow the new normalisation committee to enter the Fecafoot headquarters and to carry out its activities unhindered." Once that happens, FIFA said the suspension will be lifted, and if it happens in the next 60 days, it could clear the way for Cameroon to play their crucial World Cup qualifier.

Even though it would be in the best interest of the national team, it does not look likely that Cameroon will comply. Their latest retort: a denial of government interference and a claim that they don't understand why they were suspended.

Until last week, they would have been correct in the first half of that statement. Cameroon's FA recently held presidential elections and appointed, Iya Mohammad, a businessman. FIFA gave their support to the decision even though he is currently under arrest and faces charges of embezzlement. Prosecutors predict he could be held for six months before the trial.

Opposition candidates to Mohammad appealed the election and Fecafoot invalidated the result of the elections. So far, so good. In fact, the Cameroonian FA appeals committee actually come out of the scenario looking quite respectable after that.

What happened next reverses it. In the absence of an FA president, former transport minister John Begheni, installed himself as boss. Notably, he is a former minister so as of yet, government interference has not come into the equation. When reports emerged that he was accompanied by armed security forces, the shades of this story darkened significantly and FIFA acted.

Now, Cameroon have to clean up their act. FIFA will set up a committee to revise their statues and organise an election but Cameroon have to play ball if they hope to really play ball in the near future. That will require a departure from their previous attitude which has often seen them at loggerheads with their own players and the country's authorities.

But it's those that Cameroon need to toe the line most. The government have to step back and let FIFA conduct its business. Only when they are convinced there is no interference in the running of football in the country, will Cameroon take the field again. If that does not happen, this will be another missed opportunity.

The Indomitable Lions missed out on the 2012 and 2013 African Nations' Cup and have been in decline over the last few years. It will be up to Cameroon's FA to ensure they don’t slip any further.

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