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Why Cameroon Axed Finke as National Team Coach 

By Basil Afoni

Volker Finke

Volker Finke

FECAFOOT, the Cameroon Football Federation, October 30 parted ways with Volker Finke after 29 largely unfruitful months with the German tactician as the national coach of Cameroon.

Sports analysts had, for months, been befuddled by Finke’s staying power despite public disappointment with his performance, the authorities’ reluctant, albeit secret, concession that he had failed in his mission, as well as calls for a local trainer to come to the helm of the national team.

Shortly after the Cameroon FA’s decision not to renew Finke’s contract, FECAFOOT President Tombi à Roko basically confirmed the sports analysts’ complaints that the authorities had been slow to act.

“There is a popular rejection of [Finke] and his play style had become stereotyped without inspiration of the players selected and without any strategy for victory,” Tombi à Roko told journalists, as he explained reasons why the trainer was shown the door.

“To rekindle confidence in the team that bourgeons with talents after reflection, the executive committee decided to dismiss the coach. Also, this might be an opportunity for a Cameroonian to finally be at the helm of the Indomitable Lions.”

FECAFOOT also bowed to calls for the appointment of a Cameroonian to head the national team. A local manager, Alexandre Belinga, was appointed interim head coach and will be assisted by Bonaventure Djonkep. The pair will be in charge of the Lions’ two-legged 2018 World Cup qualifier against Niger on 13 and 17 November.

But despite his “interim” designation, FECAFOOT intends to keep the new trainer if he proves his worth. “We would [evaluate] Belinga’s management of the games against Niger in both legs and if he convinces, he can remain there even for ten years. FECAFOOT would know what to do”, the President of FECAFOOT told journalists.

Many football pundits had expected Finke to be shown the door shortly after Cameroon’s disastrous 2014 World Cup outing in Brazil, or at least after the team’s lacklustre show at the AFCON in Equatorial Guinea the following year, but he was kept in place because of administrative inertia and the reluctance of the authorities to admit that their choice of trainer for the Indomitable Lions might not have been the best, many analysts believe.

Finke’s assignment with the Cameroon team that began on May 22, 2013 seems to have been the German’s most difficult coaching job in his 41-year managerial career.

News of Finke’s appointment over two years ago was not welcomed by some Cameroonian football experts. Former Indomitable Lions’ goal poacher and legend, Albert Roger Milla, for instance, came out forcefully against the hiring of the German to train the Cameroon team, maintaining that Finke was “incompetent” to lead the squad.

Milla’s prompt opposition to the choice of Finke as trainer was scorned by some Cameroonian football pundits, but many now believe the football legend was prescient in his judgement.

Although the German tactician qualified Cameroon for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea, the outcome of both tournaments were highly disappointing to the Cameroonian public, who had dreamed of a replay of the glorious heydays of the team.

In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Indomitable Lions were eliminated in the group stage, and lost all three games against hosts Brazil, Mexico and Croatia.

Also, after qualifying for the 2015 African Cup of Nations unbeaten, Cameroonians thought the team was bouncing back to its days of glory. However, the Lions failed to make it through the group stage as they recorded two losses and a draw.


Volker Finke’s Career Since 1991

From July 1, 1991 to June 30, 2007, Volker Finke was the coach of SC Freiburg. Under Finke, Freiburg played 605 matches, recorded 243 victories, 143 draws and 219 defeats, giving a success rate of 40.12 percent. During his reign, SC Freiburg won five trophies. He was later sacked after 16 years at the helm of the club.

On December 6, 2008, Finke signed for Japanese J. League Division I side, Urawa Red Diamonds. Although Finke failed to win any trophy with the club, he enjoyed the best spell of his managerial career as far as performance was concerned. Urawa Red Diamonds, under Finke’s stewardship, played 82 games, 37 wins, 13 draws and 32 defeats, giving a success rate of 45.5 percent.

With just some few weeks to the end of his contract with Urawa Red Diamonds, Finke was appointed Sporting Director of Cologne.

“Finke has proven in the past that he can put together and enhance teams strategically and conceptually,” read an announcement on Cologne’s website then. After the sacking of Frank Schaefer, Finke took over the managerial role in Cologne and guided the team to the end of the season winning all remaining three matches – registering a 100 percent success.

Under him, Cameroon has played 29 matches, recording 9 wins, 12 draws and 8 defeats with a winning percentage of 31.03-the worst in Finke’s career.


Who is Alexandre Belinga?

Born on August 25, 1962, Belinga is a former player of Tonnerre of Yaoundé in the 80s and one time player of the Indomitable Lions.

The graduate from the National Institute of Sports, INJS, has had coaching spells with clubs like PWD Bamenda, Unisport of Bafang, Astres of Douala, Impots FC, among others. On the national scene, he has once been the Coach of the Indomitable Lions A.

Belinga will be the 14th coach of the Lions since 1998, and the 33rd since 1965. He is also the 10th Cameroonian to take over the helm of the Indomitable Lions.