Home News All the challenges of African football – Vincenzo Giardina

All the challenges of African football – Vincenzo Giardina

by admin

08 January 2022 08:48

Who knows what Fantamady, the Fulani girl who gave prestige to Cameroon football, would think. Some readers of Alain Mabanckou will remember her and the reproaches of her father, who, when the heat becomes stifling, stretches out under the great khaya tree. For her, no dolls but a ball in the sunny courtyard. And that you play, up to the final with Canon Yaoundé, the team from the capital: “Since he couldn’t get his head, he offered his chest. And the left tit, pointed like a javelin, threw the ball into the opponent’s goal “.

Goals, fantasies and memories intertwine talking on the phone with Eugène Ébodé, author of The tetonnade, one of the stories in Mabanckou’s football anthology The happiness of simple men. But pay attention to gender issues, woe to exercising arbitrary monopolies: “Fantamady would tell you that I don’t have to speak for women because they can do it very well without my help. And he would be absolutely right ”, sighs Ebodé. We are talking about women’s football, or rather its growth: it was promised by Samuel Eto’o, 40, former striker, Olympic gold medal with the “indomitable lions” of Cameroon, star of Barcelona and then of Inter’s “treble”. Since last month he is “monsieur le président”, for now not of the republic but of Fecafoot, the football federation of his country.

In Europe they celebrated it su Twitter with a photo in the Nerazzurri shirt and the Cameroonian tricolor, yellow, green and red, around his neck. Even in Cameroon they remember him with the flag, the one waved after the victories of the Africa Cup in 2000 and 2002. Support for the women’s movement is instead one of the failed promises of Fecafoot. Eto’o was elected president accusing his predecessor of not having fought the corruption that had twice led to FIFA commissioners and of not having guaranteed neither sponsors to the national championship nor fields for amateurs or salaries that allowed professionals. not to be forced to look for another job as well. At Fecafoot, the new course began with the dismissal of nearly all members of the executive committee and the adoption of a code of good conduct for local league executives. Looking ahead, by 2030, 40 municipal stadiums are to be built with public and private funds. Meanwhile, on January 9, at five in the afternoon, in the new Yaoundé stadium there is the kick-off of the African Cup.

Football could play a role against violence: more than tactics courses would need places to meet and try to understand each other.

Cameroon hosts the competition for the first time in nearly fifty years. It was supposed to play in 2019 but at the last moment the tournament was postponed due to unrest in the majority Anglophone regions, in the northwest and in the southwest of the country. In these areas, under British rule until independence and then included in a state where 250 languages ​​are spoken but the first language is French, the risk of violence has not disappeared. A protest movement to respect the rights of local communities, led by lawyers and teachers, was followed by arrests and bans on demonstrations. The clash favored the emergence of guerrilla and separatist groups, until the proclamation of the “Republic of Ambazonia”, not recognized either in Yaoundé or internationally, but a symbol of a crisis that is still open. There have been attacks, summary executions, vendettas and even assaults on schools, with thousands of victims and almost a million people forced to leave their homes.

It is likely that now the news will focus on the football prowess of the various national teams, with reigning champions Algeria, Mohamed Salah’s Egypt, Kalidou Koulibaly’s Senegal and the hosts of André Onana, a goalkeeper discovered by a football school. Eto’o is promised to Inter for next season. Meanwhile, armored personnel and riot police patrol the streets of Limbé, a southwestern town that will host Tunisia-Mali on Tuesday 11 January and then seven more Cup matches. The capital Buéa is also manned by the military, a training site, where an explosion at the university in November injured eleven students.

Yaoundé, Cameroon, January 7, 2022. Soldiers patrol the area around the entrance to the Olembé stadium.

(Kenzo Tribouillard, Afp)

Opponent Maurice Kamto spoke of a “serious situation” in recent days. His thesis is that Paul Biya, president for 39 years and in power before, has inherited “a united and stable country” and will instead leave “one divided by ethnic hatred and torn apart by armed conflicts”. Ébodé, the writer, also talks about the crisis. Resident in France, a past as a goalkeeper in the Cameroon youth national team and as a sports commentator, he does not enter into the merits of Biya’s choices. “In a globalized world where there is a lot of wealth but the vast majority of people are poor, there is bound to be tension and conflict,” he says. “Poverty also affects Cameroon, which however today desires peace”. Here then is a proposal by Ébodé, starting from the idea that football can play a role against violence: more than tactics courses we need places to meet and try to understand each other. For a moment, Ébodé returns to Eto’o. He remembers a meeting years ago, on the eve of a Champions’ League final, and one of his words in particular: “Barcelona only dreams of giving happiness”. Now the former striker should act accordingly and imagine schools that are of football but also, at the same time, of peace; or even surprisingly proposing, during the Cup, to create a United Nations sports agency that helps to prevent wars: “It could be made up of champions who have not received more than five red cards at the end of their career”.

Memories of victories, defeats and even desertions emerge on the phone. Photos appear, year 1982: Ébodé trains with the “indomitable lions” and saves a penalty under the eyes of Thomas N’Kono, the goalkeeper of the draw in Spain against the Azzurri of Enzo Bearzot, then world champions. Ébodé tells us that from the sidelines a joke addressed to the goalkeeper started: “Did you see the little one? This takes your place: okalga“. In beti, one of the languages ​​of Cameroon_, okalga_ means be careful. Ébodé, however, stopped at the youth teams, without ever winning the senior national team. Blame also for that 20-year-old anger for the exclusion from the owners of Dynamo Douala, the team of his hometown, away to Ivory Coast for the African Cup Winners’ Cup. Upon returning, in protest, he refuses to board the plane. The president of the republic does not like it and makes it known; the boy emigrated to France and, between one game and another, he enrolled in political science.

Girls make you dream
And Fantamady, the girl who scored from the chest? It is said that the president of Cameroon is ecstatic to the point of signing an edict consisting of two articles: the first establishes that the men’s national team, due to its pathetic results, is nicknamed “the goats”; the second that the players, thanks to the fantastic center forward, remain instead “the indomitable lionesses”. All true, indeed no, perhaps a little.

The latest from African women’s football does not concern Cameroon but the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, winners of the first edition of the Women’s Champions League, a continental club tournament that was held in Egypt. Girls from eight countries challenged each other and Evelyn Badu, a 19-year-old midfielder, former captain of the “black princesses” of Ghana, scored the most goals of all. After the final he signed a contract with a Norwegian team and now the new coach is trying to keep the expectations of the fans in check.


Jean Sseninde, a socially committed Ugandan player, tells other stories. Between 2020 and 2021, as a consultant, she helped to create the women’s league of the South Sudan Football Association (Ssfa). “It was played in all regions and the response from the public was generally very positive”, he recalls of the championship, played in a country as big as France but with just 200 kilometers of paved roads, independent for ten years and already injured by a civil conflict.

“Making a precise estimate is difficult because on the sidelines instead of the stands there are open spaces, but for some key matches I think there were up to ten thousand spectators”. And of course: South Sudan also has its Messi. Indeed his Messi, nickname of Aluel Garang, 20 years old and the nose for goals. She was one of the stars of the league, but she has also been written about her for the domestic violence she suffered and for the raid on the field by her husband: the Honorable Peter Mayen Majongdit, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs. On April 17, in the fifth minute of the match, he attacked the Aweil Women’s coach by shooting in the air (but perhaps it was the bodyguards) and dragging his wife away: it seems that his three-month-old son was crying at home. Without Messi, not the Argentine Lionel but the South Sudanese Aluel, the match against the Juba Super Stars ended 0-0.


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