Cameroonian league season in turmoil after clubs boycott opening games

Cameroon clubs in action
Yong Sports in action against Dragon of Yaoundé in the Cameroon league last season

Cameroon's 2019 top tier domestic championship failed to get underway on Saturday after teams staged a boycott of the opening game at the Yaoundé Military Stadium.

The 2018 Cup of Cameroon winners Eding Sports of Lekie were set to play Yong Sports Academy of Bamenda.

They stayed away following a call from the syndicate of elite clubs (SYCEC) to boycott the competition amidst a dispute with the head of Cameroon's Professional Football League (LFPC), Pierre Semengue.

"In solidarity with the trade union of elite clubs, we wouldn't travel to Yaoundé to kick off the championship. The decision was taken solely in the interest of our football and in all integrity," Yong Sports chairman, Jacques Yong, said in a club statement.

"The decision has been taken because last minute attempts to solve the problems plaguing our elite football have failed," he added.

SYCEC, led by Union of Douala president Frank Happi, say they are unhappy with how league football is managed in Cameroon.

"It's outrageous to imagine that the league president wants the first and second division tournaments to start when clubs aren't aware of the amount they will receive as subvention," Happi told BBC Sport.

"Clubs weren't sure when the championship was supposed to start and so most of them kept their teams together, paying out training bonuses regularly.

"It's only fair for them to know how much they will get before stepping on the pitch. The teams are ready and want to play football but everything isn't right for the league to start.

"Most of the country's top stadiums are being renovated or constructed and the question as to where games will be staged has remained unanswered.

"These uncertainties make us think it's not reasonable starting the championship now," said Happi.

The clubs' heads say they are concerned about a lack of consultation over key decisions taken by 83-year-old LFPC boss, Pierre Semengue.

These decisions include increasing Cameroon's Elite 1 championship from 18 to 20 amidst financial difficulties and a move to split the championship into a two-pool tournament where only one outfit would be relegated.

Hopes were high that both opposing camps could come to a compromise following a meeting with Cameroon's Sports minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi and Fecafoot president Seidou Mbombo Njoya.

But failure to find concrete solutions to the current crisis means most, if not all of the teams in the country's top football league, will not play this weekend.

SYSEC, currently made up of 27 teams in the top two divisions, has called on league authorities to respect the agreements of a meeting between the syndicate, the Cameroon football federation (Fecafoot) and the league president as well as an article of the league's blueprint which called for the convening of a general assembly before the start of the championship.

The President of Cameroon's Professional football league, Pierre Semengue has described the syndicate as an illegal institution and has said clubs that fail to show up for games will be relegated to the country's third tier leagues, as per league statutes.

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