Of the eighteen teams taking part in the revamped Cameroonian football championship, Botafogo football club of Buea single themselves out by having their president manager pulling the strings from abroad. From London where he lives, Valentine Mololu, general president of this team analyses and explains the performance of his players, at the end of this first leg of the championship.
He gives his appreciation of the new league format imposed by Fecafoot. “I am sure the executive bureau of FECAFOOT had a very sound reason for changing things into the current format”, he said. Regretting that: “Nowadays, the young player’s dream of money first before becoming good players”. Just follow…
Camfoot.com: How do you feel after this first step of the soccer championship?
Valentine Molulu: I think we have not had a bad outing so far. I reasonably happy though disappointed that we did not make the super league. But if you look at our results it shows that the team really deserves to be in the super league. From our pool statistically compared to the teams that qualified we deserve to be in there because one to one with all those teams only Union Douala has a technical advantage over us. We Lost away to Racing and beat them at home. We beat Canon home and away. We played score draw home and away against Bamboutos. As first timers in the Elite league we were never intimidated by any team. We gave them good competition. So overall I am satisfied with the team’s performance. Though I must also note that no team west of the Mungo made it into the Super league. Is this a true measure of the football from this region.
Camfoot.com: Your team Botafogo can not follow the final step to won an title. Any think to explain this performance?
Valentine Molulu: We never had ambitions of winning the championship as this for us was a year to learn about the championship and make sure we maintain ourselves in the Elite League. We are confident though that we can still win some silverware this year: The Cup of Cameroon. We will set our stall and put everything in place to ensure that this cup is ours this year.
“The infrastructure available is up to a standard and reflects our standing in world football”.
Camfoot.com: Don’t you think that it is financial difficulties the team face during the season?
Valentine Molulu: This is a very good question. It is also a loaded question. Every team in Cameroon has a measure of financial difficulties. There are teams which had more difficulties than us but for some reason our own affairs seem to be in the media all the time. Well, Lets look at football as a business. We invest obscene amounts of money in football and get virtually nothing back on a daily basis. I think clubs should be allowed to own their own stadiums and facilities.
We should learn from successful leagues in Europe and America. Even in Africa countries like Tunisia, South Africa etc… have better organised leagues where football is a viable business. We play a Match in Yaounde of all places and you have 150,000CFA as gate fee. It obviously demonstrates that the fans need to be attracted back to the stadiums and that the old model is no longer viable. The provincial stadiums are a mess. They instead cost us more money as each time we play on these pitches players get injured as the surface is gravel instead of grass. This gives us extra medical bills. As a minimum all pitches should be grass so our young players can nature their trade properly in good conditions. This is not a criticizing anyone but a call for a much fairer partnership between the clubs, Fecafoot and the Youth and Sport Ministry to ensure that the infrastructure available is up to a standard and reflects our standing in world football. We are not calling on the building of complete stadiums but to start an evolutionary process where by the current infrastructure is transformed and made fit and secure for use.
Camfoot.com: You did not attend most of the encounters in person. Wouldn’t your presence be a source of extra motivation for your players to perform better? Isn’t distance another explanation for these results?
Valentine Molulu: I have been in Cameroon and I have seen the players we have had communion together. I have an able vice President who has done a marvellous job so far. He must be lauded for his courage and persistence despite all the difficulties. And to all the technical staff this was a learning process for all. And I am sure they will all confirm that we have all learned important lessons and see therefore a lot of promise for the future.
Camfoot.com: Then, how do you manage your team from London? What organisation is in place to achieve this?
Valentine Molulu: Like any other club we have an executive structure in place with varied responsibilities. There is also the technical staff and the playing staff. The details are available at the club secretariat and there is a copy with Fecafoot in Yaounde. So I normally go through my Vice President to execute any particular orders.
“Cameroon teams always struggle in African competitions because they are not used to the modern facilities presented by the other nations”.
Camfoot.com: Unlike PWD of Bamenda whose president resides in the USA, Your team has not had a general assembly. What do you thing of Fecafoot recommendations?
Valentine Molulu: We are a football club with private ownership. We try to implement a working formula and a model borrowed from the successful leagues in Europe. There should be a clear divide between ownership of a club which is an enterprise and supporting the club as a fan. The old model is no longer viable as shown by the problems in Canon, and Tonnerre. Also as demonstrated by the demise of clubs which were run by government parastatals. The last surviving of which is Cotton Sport. But the day the cotton trading goes out of fashion then Sodecoton will not have the resources to support cotton sport any more. It happened to PWD Bamenda and Kumba etc… The new and emerging models are clubs like Mount Cameroon, KSA and Botafogo, where individuals are investing their own money and attempting to run an enterprise.
Camfoot.com: What is the future of Botafogo? What could be done to further encourage the players, as this second leg of the “Ligue Nationale” is so crucial ?
Valentine Molulu: We will continue to motivate the players by ensuring that, financially, mentally, medically, sociologically and physically they are in top form. We have no fears of the second phase of the league. If the system is fair then we will should finish top 2. The future is very bright for the club and the only way is up from here.
Camfoot.com: What is your view on this new look Fecafoot gave to the championship this year? Is the new format more competitive?As a club president, do you spend more or less money now ?
Valentine Molulu: My personal View is that it made it very unfair all round. As all teams should have played each other to determine their real strength. It has not attracted the population back to the football grounds. We are still to see what the next round brings. If it will be more interesting than the first round. I will re-iterate that we should concentrate on developing the game as a proper sustainable business by first making sure that the infrastructure and facilities enhance the development of the end product: good professional players. Cameroon teams always struggle in African competitions because they are not used to the modern facilities presented by the other nations (flood lights, natural grass surface etc…). We should start from the basics. Provide us with grass pitches; provide changing rooms with showers and toilets for players. And provide rest or cloak rooms for the viewing public. It will cost less than 20 Million CFA per stadium to provide these basic amenities listed above. We should have a straight forward elite league with a national second division league also. The provincial leagues should be third division. I am sure the executive bureau of FECAFOOT had a very sound reason for changing things into the current format. The only country which has something similar to what we are doing that I am aware of is Brazil. Their league is more mature and has proper professional clubs. Their infrastructure is superb.
Hence they are able to produce talented and well groomed footballers. We may never be able to produce players like Roger Milla, Manga Oungene, Abega Theophil etc…These generally horned their skills on grass pitches. And the circumstances when they started playing were different. These players had the love of the game first before money. Nowadays, the young players dream of money first before becoming good players. I applaud those with academies, as these have generally been the basis of a good supply of players. So all the clubs should be encouraged to have youth programmes or academies, etc…
I know I have gone round the block without directly answering your question. No we don’t spend more money because the format has changed. We approach each game the same and we try to win. I don’t believe the games are more competitive. Instead it means that half of the teams in the Super League don’t need to bother about the rest of the season even if they lose all their games. And some of these teams just marginally made it through.
By Kisito NGALAMOU, firstname.lastname@example.org