When Cameroon introduced the appointment this summer time of Clarence Seedorf because the new head coach of the nationwide workforce, the selection of such a high-profile identify grabbed the eye. It was seemingly a glamour selection, placing Cameroon firmly in the limelight, relatively than a sensible footballing one. That Seedorf can be assisted by his fellow former Dutch worldwide Patrick Kluivert merely served to reinforce this impression.
At a time when Cameroon’s footballing fortunes are caught in a little bit of a rut having failed to succeed in the final World Cup, the appointment of the Dutch duo at first look seems set to do little to arrest the present malaise. Nevertheless, the stature of their names signifies that consideration might be targeted on Cameroon’s marketing campaign to a far higher diploma than it might in any other case have been.
If Cameroon are to get well from their current stoop, it can have to be executed in the complete glare of the watching world. Seedorf’s first recreation in cost, an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away in the picturesque Comoros Islands, wouldn’t ordinarily have been the immediate for quite a few articles and elevated focus. However such is the attract of the new management that elevated consideration was virtually assured. Simply how have Cameroon ended up in this place?
The Indomitable Lions are one among Africa’s most profitable nations. From quite a few Cup of Nations victories and the Olympic gold medal in Sydney 2000, to their superb perception-shattering run to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals, the nationwide group have steadily been on the forefront of African soccer.
Their most up-to-date success got here in lifting the Africa Cup of Nations as soon as once more in 2017, the fifth time they’ve. However since then the descent has been speedy. Cameroon gained that title beneath the tutelage of the Belgian Hugo Broos, which at first look seems to point out the workforce’s fortunes on a excessive. However scratch the floor and the truth of the state of affairs is that it was an remoted success.
It was preceded by three massively disappointing World Cup campaigns and was swiftly adopted by one other as Cameroon did not make it to Russia. Their qualifying marketing campaign for the newest international showdown noticed them properly off the tempo set by Nigeria all through the ultimate stage, managing a lone victory out of their six group video games.
Learn | Thomas N’Kono, Joseph-Antoine Bell and shattering racism about black goalkeepers
Towards this backdrop, the appointment of Seedorf is a danger. No one can query his enjoying profession – he’s a 4 occasions Champions League winner in any case – nevertheless, as a coach, the other is the case. His first step on the managerial rung was a temporary stint with AC Milan earlier than equally short-lived sojourns to Shenzhen in China and Deportivo La Coruña. None of those spells have been particularly profitable, though the interval in Milan was comparatively productive in phrases of outcomes.
In a troubling echo of the state of affairs Seedorf has now joined in Cameroon, when he took over at AC Milan, in what was a large gamble for the Italian giants, he was pitched into a membership in what he described as “total chaos” underneath its then Chinese language possession. This era, which lasted lower than 5 months, was in all probability the excessive level of Seedorf’s managerial profession so far; he truly oversaw an enchancment in Milan’s document. However he was proven the door regardless, a sufferer of the membership’s ongoing turmoil on the time as a lot as anything, earlier than discovering himself in China.
The spell in the Far East was one other brief one, failing to safe promotion to the highest flight for Shenzhen. He was shortly changed by Sven-Göran Eriksson. He wasn’t out of labor for lengthy, although, getting a chance in one other of Europe’s prime leagues, this time in Spain. Taking up the reins of Deportivo in spring 2018, Seedorf was primarily tasked with steering them away from relegation from LaLiga. Sadly, it was a task in which he failed, main to a different fast dismissal. From there he has taken on considered one of Africa’s giants.
Seedorf’s restricted managerial profession was neatly summed up by former nationwide workforce striker Patrick M’Boma, who famous his “scant experience as a coach” and lamented the truth that the Cameroon Soccer Federation had opted to “name two guys who have never worked in Africa and know nothing about African football.”
His assistant, Kluivert, has a bit extra expertise as an assistant, having carried out this position at numerous golf equipment in addition to with the Dutch nationwide workforce beneath Louis van Gaal. He additionally steered Curaçao via a comparatively profitable interval as supervisor, prior to now reverting again to being an assistant. Kluivert’s report does little, nevertheless, to negate the general impression that that is a managerial group missing in each expertise and success. Briefly, they are not what you’d think about was required at Cameroon proper now.
It might be difficult sufficient even when all was going properly, however in addition to the disappointing World Cup qualifying exit on the potch, there are quite a few points off it that Seedorf has walked straight into. Going again to the World Cup of 2014, Cameroon made a larger impression for imploding on the sector and off than they did for something constructive. Three straight defeats, two of them notably heavy, have been performed out whereas the squad argued with the federation over bonus funds, a problem which prompted them to reach late in Brazil.
Learn | Samuel Eto’o: footballer, goalscorer, winner and humanitarian
There was additionally the small matter of a match-fixing scandal, the place convicted fixer Wilson Raj Perumal appropriately “predicted” a Four-Zero win for Croatia over the Indomitable Lions. In a regime and federation the place corruption is rife, it wasn’t a stretch to consider this might be true, although nothing has been confirmed on this entrance.
On the enjoying entrance, there have been additional inner squad ructions, which have been made painfully evident in that very same match when Benoît Assou-Ekotto planted a headbutt on his teammate Benjamin Moukandjo. It was not a completely satisfied camp. Bringing all of it collectively once more to win the 2017 AFCON was a exceptional achievement, however the identical points remained effervescent away beneath the floor. The cracks had merely been papered over.
A couple of months additional down the road, the Confederations Cup noticed one other disappointing displaying, and when the World Cup qualifiers ended in failure, Broos was gone, as was any semblance of concord and progress because the outgoing coach left amid fallings out with each gamers and the federation.
There are political considerations too, as home feuds between the federation and the nationwide Ministry of Sport prompted FIFA to step in final yr, appointing a “normalisation committee” tasked with making certain the official election of new officers. Nevertheless, none of that would happen till after the nation’s presidential elections had been carried out.
Then there’s the approaching strain of internet hosting the subsequent Africa Cup of Nations as defending champions. It’s clear that Seedorf has stepped into a strain cooker surroundings the place issues might quickly escalate out of his management. Is that this the suitable setting for a managerial novice? Even the federation hadn’t initially thought so, as they’d tried to put in Sven-Göran Eriksson, who would have introduced some expertise, though his solely enterprise into African soccer up to now was additionally a disappointing one with Ivory Coast in 2010.
Thankfully for Seedorf, his first match with Cameroon was anticipated to be a comparatively benign one, a probability to chop his tooth and begin issues off in a mild means with a journey to the 149th-ranked nation in world soccer – the Comoros. Formally a part of the AFCON qualifying stage, Cameroon have been enjoying in a group regardless of qualifying as hosts, alongside the identical strains as France’s participation in a Euro 2016 qualifying group. However when it got here to match day in the idyllic setting of Grande Comore island in the Indian Ocean, enjoying in a cosy nationwide stadium ringed with palm timber, issues didn’t go easily in any respect.
Learn | The rise of soccer in Curaçao and the affect of Patrick Kluivert
Forward of the recreation, Seedorf had made a controversial transfer by excluding a number of Cameroonian gamers from consideration as a result of they performed in what he noticed because the uncompetitive and decrease degree Chinese language leagues. That coverage noticed the exclusion of Benjamin Moukandjo and Christian Bassogog, who had each been key gamers in the AFCON triumph. “Good young players don’t compete in China or in Asia,” said Seedorf. He did seem to backtrack a little later after this preliminary coverage induced an outcry in Cameroon, however it was a stance that instantly put Seedorf in one thing of a no-win state of affairs, barracked from all sides earlier than he’d even begun.
Even so, securing a win towards Comoros was thought-about a formality. Right here was an opponent certainly perfect for Seedorf and Kluivert to get off to a constructive begin, to get their ft underneath the door with a good efficiency and be sure that the main target returned to the soccer somewhat than the seemingly infinite off-pitch shenanigans. Sadly for the new managerial group, the match didn’t pan out that approach – removed from it. Amid a manic, raucous environment, the hosts took the sport to their extra illustrious opponents from the off and took a deserved lead in simply the 15th minute.
Cameroon appeared to be stifled by a lethargy that seemed to be brought on by extra than simply their opponents not permitting them to settle. It appeared at occasions endemic and all-consuming. Whether or not it was it borne of complacency in facing a lowly opponent, a lack of preparation, or but extra inner feuds is just not clear. However the Indomitable Lions have been something however as they struggled to get again into the sport, with panic spreading at a speedy price, fairly than a rise in focus and depth that their superior credentials should have meant. It was solely 10 minutes from the top once they lastly drew degree, Stéphane Bahoken scoring to grab a draw from what was so almost a momentous loss.
In mild of such a close to catastrophe for the continental champions, the shortage of expertise of the management group has develop into a rod to beat them with. Their well-known names are doing nothing to defend them from the extreme glare of Cameroons footballing press, merely serving so as to add gasoline to the already raging hearth towards their appointment.
For his half, Seedorf batted away any considerations by declaring himself proud of the spirit his staff had proven in the face of adversity. However there isn’t any denying that having entered a state of affairs the place he was negatively perceived from the beginning, making issues more durable for himself by excluding a number of the higher gamers at his disposal and then failing to get the remaining gamers to appear to be a coherent group for probably the most half, leaves this high-profile management duo struggling to make a constructive impression.
With the expectations of one among Africa’s foremost footballing nations firmly targeted on internet hosting and efficiently defending the African Cup of Nations subsequent summer time, the strain is on.
By Aidan Williams @yad_williams