Sacking Coaches: An Emblematic Problem Worsening Cameroon’s Football

Football, Sports

By Etienne Mainimo Mengnjo

On October 21, the coach of the Cameroon Intermediate Lions, Yves Clement Arroga, was relieved of his duty by the Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Narcisse Mouelle Kombi.

According to Minister Mouelle Kombi, the performance of the coach “did not meet expectations”. Cameroon is preparing to stage the 2021 CHAN in three months. The news fell like a bombshell, even though not a surprise to many.

Coach Arroga has just fallen into the same pit where his predecessors fell. He may have been shocked or surprised, but the phenomenon has engulfed the Cameroon sporting landscape.

In 2019, after just returning from the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Coach Thomas Libih and his technical team were sacked for poor performance. Tongues went wagging but could not discourage the situation from reoccurring.

From all indications, the coaching carousel or turnover is an extreme but frequent phenomenon in the Cameroon football landscape.

In the past decade, firing of coaches from the various national selections has become very alarming. In the senior men’s football selection, some nine coaches have been sacked in 10 years, giving an average of sacking one coach per year.

This situation has brought unanswered questions to what sports authorities want from each section. Each time a coach is fired, the understanding is that the results are not good enough. In fact, patience has run out and no prospect of turnaround is probable.

The recent casualty is the coach of the Intermediate Lions, Arroga, sacked from his position three months to a continental championship. Football lovers cannot stop asking why a refined coach will be sacked in such a manner.

Along the streets of Yaounde, fans express disappointment to the way coaches are hired and fired in Cameroon. While some indicate that it is due to poor results, many asked if bad results are necessarily the fault of the coach and would sacking him or her and replacing him with another deliver the good results?

“If you look at the past years, you will discover that Cameroon hires and fires coaches at will. This is not good for our sporting landscape. In football, we are leaving with the consequences of these acts. It is not helping us at all,” Emannauel Mvila said.

He added, “Bad results can be the fault of the coach or the players or a combination of both. Sometimes, blame can even be levelled at the hierarchy because they contribute greatly to the performance of the team.”

According to Patience, a fan: “The firing and hiring of coaches cannot solve any problem in Cameroon. In fact, that is not the problem. The real problem is the authorities that are managing the sector. They are not there for the love of sports but for their personal gains.”

However, if a failing coach has been hired, why do the authorities who hire him or her not also receive the same fate by being sacked or fired for failing to do their job?”

Winning more games has long been seen as a way of securing more fans and more sponsors. Undoubtedly, this is true, although the impact of winning is often overstated.

A coach may have obstacles along his way, but can go along and succeed, but he is sacked. Even at that, the new coach usually takes over the selection of the former coach.

The consequences of these hiring and firing of coaches in the sporting landscape has brought untold pain and suffering. That explains why in the last couple of years, Cameroon has not been able to perform well in international competitions. The few remarkable instances have been achieved out of luck.

Authorities have failed to learn as they have continued to take delight in the act. Year in, year out, there is recycling and the same people are brought in to continue with cacophony. Actors, supporters and fans have been left in the wilderness.

Looking at the winning percentage of Cameroonian teams before and after replacing the coach, the data from a wide range is inconclusive. There is little consensus about whether coach replacement increases success.

It is clear that many more factors than just the coach have an impact upon team’s success. The “ritual scapegoating” that is a common motive for sacking a coach often changes very little in the organisation.

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