The abrupt elimination of the Indomitable Lions from World Cup 2002 has not gone down well with football fans. Never in the history of Cameroon football has so much hope and money been put on a team at this level of a competition, with too little results obtained at the end of the day.
The debacle of the Lions in Korea/Japan were pegged on three principal causes. While the remote cause remains the mismanagement of the Africa Cup of Nations victory, others include, increasing mercantilist tendencies, the invasion of the team and its camping hide-out by a plethora of marketing executives of sponsors and a generalised breakdown of discipline around the team. The inability of the technical crew under Winfried Schafer to take bold decisions at critical moments may have also set the pendulum towards deflation. The root causes of the debacles of the team in World Cup 2002 can be traced to the string of victories acquired in the past two years — two African Cup of Nations titles and the Sydney Olympic gold medal in football. Reminiscences of trophies, titles and the attendant ovations can intoxicate certain temperaments and create a syndrome of « swollen heads. » It is like a knife that cuts at both ends-towards improved performance or the other way round. This time around it may have been counter-productive, sending the players to slumber and a sort of resting on laurels of past glories.
Poison of bonuses
Increasing mercantilist tendencies within the delegation poisoned the veins of patriotism and set players on the rails of blackmail. When the players went into a rebellion in Paris and successfully had their way, the breakdown of discipline was ineluctably set in motion. The mutiny was ignited on the basis of modalities of payment of match bonuses and other stipends. Each player was entitled to CFA thirty million qualification bonus. Officials had opted to transfer the money directly into the personal accounts of players. The other alternative was payments by bank certified cheques. The reason was to avoid the manipulation of huge sums of money in cash. The players, under the instigation of some officials in the delegation demanded raw cash or nothing. It took four days to sort out this problem given that it was a weekend and a public holiday in Cameroon. Why should officials instigate players into a rebellion? The answer is simple. With raw cash in the hands of players, kickbacks and « percentages » promised for one favour or another are easily « settled ». Bank transfers and certified cheques make disbursement for kickbacks pretty complicated. After the tie with Ireland and the victory against Saudi Arabia, the Lions picked another twelve million each, making a total CFA forty two million for each player even before the third match against Germany. Not many teams in the World Cup had received such amounts in bonuses at that stage of the competition. The money, rather than act as a motivator, became a source of distraction.
Nuisance of sponsors
Sponsoring remains a vital aspect of the football industry. For once, the Indomitable Lions now have viable and financially advantageous sponsors. The problem with sponsors and sponsoring is that the limits and areas of jurisdiction are difficult to define. When there is a disequilibrium in the market forces of demand and supply, it may cause disharmony. The paymaster of the piper easily takes advantage of his financial preponderance to monopolise the tunes. The massive invasion, physically and psychological, of the Lions camp by marketing executives of sponsors in complicity with some officials in the delegation told to disastrous effect on the serenity of the lions. The distribution of numerous paraphernalia, the trailing of the Lions by a German television crew at the behest of the sponsors and the aura of kick-backs and other social engagements involving players did not give the impression the priority was winning matches and qualifying for the round of sixteen. The changing of the traditional colours of the Lions from green red and yellow to those of the sponsor (white and black) sparked a controversy that did a lot in distracting the players.
The breakdown in discipline, within the group was inextricably linked to the aforementioned themes of bonuses and the invasion of sponsors. It all began in Paris with the rebellion that kept the team in the French capital for four days. During this period, the rules of camping ahead of an encounter no longer held. The players were free to engage in social activities which had nothing to do with football. As authorities succumbed to one dictat after another, it became difficult to re-establish any semblance of order, particularly as the mutiny was instigated by some officials for financial motives. The two days flight from Paris to Fokuoka with a stop over in Bombay contributed in aggravating the environment of indiscipline with players criticising openly the decisions and choices of their managers. Coupled with the fatigue of the long journey and the demands of financially motivated friendlies » with local squads in the Nakatsue locality, it was evident that the wishes of sponsors took precedence over the patriotic resolve for a good preparation against challengers.
Finally, after the defeat at the behest of Germany, most players packed out of the hotel without the knowledge of officials. By the time the chartered Cameroon Airlines 747-400 arrived Narita International Airport in Tokyo for the journey homewards, no Indomitable was available.