By Leocadia Bongben from Cameroon
Cameroon female football is going through a hard time; some clubs have been relegated to an inferior division and the championship halted four months ago is yet to pick up.
Many have been wondering what is wrong with female football. This is the question lingering in the minds of the few female football lovers who have put their faith in the women and their game.
Division One, D1, female football started late on March 22 but halted shortly before some teams could play their day 4 and 5 matches.
The National Championship, the Women Tournament and the Cup of Cameroon have fed the national team with players who have over the years brought smiles to Cameroonians through their results.
The team was adorned in gold, snatched during the All Africa Games in Maputo in 2011, was third in the 2012 Nations Cup, went to the Olympic Games though eliminated at the group stage and would be part of the 2014 African Women Championship in Namibia.
At the time Cameroon would be hosting the 2016 African Women Championship, the present situation where the championship is halted does not auger well for a competitive national team.
The problem actors identify, is organisation which is termed amateurish at every level compared to men’s football. League I & II matches are played at the Amadou Ahidjo Stadium, Reunification Stadium in Bepanda and the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.
But, women play in the open air, in the mud at the annex stadia in Yaoundé and Douala yet the same victory is expected of them.
Girls have no dressing rooms and some clubs had to put blinds in their buses to serves the purpose. Substitution in the women championship is still done with fingers while there are already boards. Besides, little recycling of referees and football managers exists.
Organisation maybe a problem, but financing seems to be core of female football snags.
Contrary to men’s football with two competitions, female football has three competitions. Of all these competitions for the 2014 season, only the Women’s Tournament has been played.
Like in the men’s championship with an increase in clubs, female D1 championship initially had ten clubs increased to 14.
Club presidents, through their former spokesperson, Pius Herve Nole Menga said the decision to raise the clubs to 14 was not taken in common accord.
Clubs had voted their budgets and could not see how to raise more money to make up for the increase from 18-28 matches. They agreed the federation has its reasons for bringing in additional clubs but argued theirs is financing. The clubs at 10 last year had a subvention of FCFA 4,7million and with 14 clubs the presidents demanded should be raised for them to cope with expenses involved.
However, some clubs adhered to the idea of 14 clubs as the President of the Female Football Commission, Celine Eko explained, “with Cameroon organising the 2016 Nations Cup, it is pertinent that the players become more competitive”.
Club presidents proposed a subvention of FCFA 15 million, but settled on the 10million proposed by Eko.
According to club presidents, Eko told them the money would come from the federation, the Ministry and the sponsor she got. Club presidents then asked for half the amount at the beginning of the competition and the rest in the return leg.
At the beginning of the season FCFA 2.5million was provided while clubs expected FCFA 5million, consequently, after the second day of play, club presidents sent a memorandum to the President of the Normalisation Committee, Prof. Joseph Owona.
They argued that after the Women’s Tournament played in March coupled with the payment of licences they are financially exhausted. Besides, a journey to Garoua in North Cameroon is estimated at FCFA 1.6million, Maroua in the Far North FCFA 2million. Training fees of FCFA 2000 per player for 30 players, fees for matches won FCFA 10,000 per player are also paid. A pharmacy kit is more expensive for women, than for men, they lament.
Fifa provides subvention every year, but the money is never given to clubs, they claim. Many presidents get impoverished, because they sell their land, houses and cars for female football when players are not sold like men, they say.
Clubs want to know why they played three games with no lodging, transportation and feeding when the federation had already mentioned is taking care. But, there have been arguments that clubs from the centre region had not gone out for the first three games.
The clubs alleged have not received subvention for the 2013 championship, the Women Tournament and the Cup of Cameroon for the expensed incurred.
Referring to club presidents memorandum 12/03/2014 the President of the Normalisation Committee, Prof. Joseph Owona made some clarifications on May 1, 2014.
Fecafoot recalled that every year, a subvention is provided to female football clubs and for the 2013/2014 year, the subvention move up from FCFA 40,000 million to FCFA 76,000 million.
The federation maintained would take care of the transportation for the 2013/2014 season up to FCFA 420,000 per team, per match. The expenses are estimated at FCFA 28million and a total subvention of FCFA 104million to be provided to the 14 clubs.
The Women Tournament and the Cup of Cameroon Fecafoot stressed is entirely under the charge of the federation financed as an indirect subvention from the ¼ finals in terms of lodging, feeding and transportation.
On government contribution, sponsors and FIFa, Fecafoot indicated has no response on the actions of the partners, but said the federation is doing everything to get a sponsor for female football while expecting the contribution of club presidents.
Fecafoot maintained that the benefits of the 2014 World Cup are set aside for football development, however, promised to appreciate at the right moment, the amount of money to be given to men and female football.
Owona again wrote to club presidents on May 23 when the competition grinded to a halt, reminding them of the regulations of the D1 Championship concerning the participation in all matches programmed and sanctions for boycotting matches.
But most importantly, he recalled that the federation would spend FCFA 231,971,000 in the current year for female football competitions, with a total amount of FCFA 178,971,000 to be paid either directly to the clubs or partners for lodging, feeding and transportation.
Instead of sitting together to dialogue, some club presidents were auditioned by the Disciplinary and Homologation Committee. The committee decided to relegate eight clubs and their presidents for five years to the inferior division.
The major question is what happens to the players of the relegated clubs, who only want to play football.
As if financial problems had not plagued female football enough, some five players of the national team were sacked for issues of morality. The Minister of Sports and physical Education however has come up with a strategy to reverse the situation.
The Way forward
Fifa adopted ten principles of female football in June 2014, the most important of which is planning perceived to be central in the amelioration of the women’s game.
Moya Dodd, Fifa Executive Member from the Australian Football Federation hopes the principles would, “set a roadmap for member federations to begin on a path to developing women football, to have a plan for the game, include players in running the game, develop expertise in women football, to include women in their executive committee and in decision making roles and see the game as a real source of growth for football generally and to make football better and richer by including women in it”.
Eko tows this line as she proposes the putting in place of a strategic plan on the organisation and development of female football.
Besides, she suggests training for female managers, clubs at different levels and referees among others, besides technical development in the organisation of other championships.
Most importantly the club presidents had longed to meet Prof. Joseph Owona to dialogue.
The slogan, “investing in female football is investing in the future”, would only make meaning if parties sit to dialogue and plan together.