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Analysis:Football Anaesthesia 

By Peterkins Manyong

The game of football. It is difficult to imagine a world without this  sport  which in the purely philosophical sense, is nothing more than a methodic kind of  madness, whereby 22 sane looking persons pursue an inflated balloon, while an equally frantic crowd enthusiastically clap for them.

Yet, it is thanks to this most popular of lunacies that Cameroonians find their country tolerable. Paul Biya’s predecessor knew it long before he relinquished power. Tata Mentan learnt his lesson the hard way, which is quite often the only way – that any joke which ridiculed football was an expensive one in the opinion of Ahmadou Ahidjo because his success as a despot depended on it. Tata Mentan had joked after an Anglophone team failed to win the national trophy that the Cup of Cameroon didn’t understand English. Reports say he immediately thought of nothing better than exile to escape the wrath of "Grand Camarade" as Ahidjo was popularly known.

Like Soccer, Like "Biyamocracy"

Cameroon football had a very pleasant dawn with players like Jean Pierre Tokoto and Ndumbe Lea in 1972 .These stars paved the way for greater glories until mismanagement set in and "Operation Coup de Coeur" became a source of football funding in a nation to whom nature  has been more than bountiful in her blessings.

Biya has benefited more from the tranquilizing effect of football and beer consumption than his predecessor because the task of keeping Cameroon together has been more arduous during his rule than that of Ahidjo. Cameroon’s impressive performance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy stemmed the tide of discontent occasioned by the killing of six youths during SDF’s launching in Bamenda. Cameroon’s two-time victory at the African Nations Cup was used to good measure.

Biya was only unfortunate in 2008 because Egypt took the trophy at the time when the Cameroonian dictator needed it most to pave the way for the controversial amendment of the 1996 constitution. He was, therefore, reduced to the necessity of employing coercion to achieve a goal that should have been attained through the use of cajolery. Hundreds of youths visited the shades below as a result of that misfortune. With Cameroon’s victory over Gabon, it is almost certain that Cameroon will be at the 2010 World Cup. If Cameroon again excels, then Cameroonians should expect anticipated Presidential Elections.

Not all Cameroonians have, however, been completely rendered senseless by the anaesthesia of football. John Fru Ndi, who in the early 90s tried to arouse the sensibility of Cameroonians on the New Deal’s exploitation of football for political gains, unconsciously, no longer saw the idea detestable after a poster was circulated portraying him as the captain of the Indomitable Lions of change (his picture superimposed). Today, Cameroonians feel the pangs of football injustice more than those of rigged elections.

There is, however, a very positive aspect of football. Some Cameroonians have since ceased to see football only in the context of their country winning. Football to them is a game to be enjoyed and its stars, persons to be respected in their own light and not flag bearers of a regime that exploits the talents of youths to perpetrate themselves in power. To this class of Cameroonians, soccer stars are talented persons to be supported in their own light, albeit, morally.

The glory of football superstardom was first distinctly perceived in the case of Roger Milla, who shone so bright in his days that foreigners, who never knew about Cameroon, traced the position of the country on their atlases. Some of them even felt that such a soccer genius must be the President of Cameroon.

Samuel Fils Eto’o was later to go further than Milla by proving that fame was not enough; that soccer can be a gainful profession. Unlike what transpired in the days of players like Prisons of Buea’s Joseph Ewunkem, whose spectacular performance hardly earned for them more than FCFA 300, after a thrilling match. Eto’o is a billionaire with the capacity to improve the lot of his family and members of his community, for instance, buying commercial motorcycles which his mother hired out to the youths of his quarter. In so doing, the star has demonstrated his awareness that when youths are doing nothing they are doing mischief and that there is no better antidote to crime than employment.

The star has also invested in landed estates in Douala and in the South Region where, unfortunately, the greed of some insensitive Cameroonians will not permit him to develop. Eto’s performance, added to his humanism has given rise to the phenomenon of fan clubs, which share with him his setbacks, such as his knee injury and his parting ways with FC Barcelona in preference to Inter of Milan.

Cameroon football has its late heroes like Mbappe Leppe and MacVivien Foé. Foé has more sympathizers because he died on the pitch, thereby attaining the status of a football martyr like Nigeria’s Sam Sochukwuma Okwaraji. The Lion’s funeral service in Notre Dame Cathedral in Yaoundé gave Biya and Fru Ndi, who sat in the same hall, the opportunity to look each other in the face. Unfortunately, the two missed the opportunity for reconciliation, which death, usually provides and that is why the impasse in which Cameroonians have since been living for the past nineteen years continues.

It will be an act of unpardonable parochialism if mention is not made of other stars, who have impacted their society by their benevolence. George Opong Weah, has used the enormous wealth acquired through his football talent, but for his intellectual deficiency, would have been Liberia’s head of state.

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