More and more young Cameroonian players are leaving the country at an early age to join European clubs. Most often for a derisory sum. Journalist Alain Denis Ikoul takes issue with this state of affairs and calls for change.
François-Régis Mughe, a talent who left Cameroon too early?
Carlos Baleba, Regis Mughe, Mimb Baheng, Aboubakar Naguida… All these players have two things in common: they are Cameroonian and left their homeland at the age of 18. And they’re not the only ones to have left so early in recent years. It’s a situation that raises eyebrows in Samuel Eto’o’s homeland. These youngsters leave Cameroon for modest sums, only to be sold on by their European clubs for millions of euros. Carlos Baléba, for example, was bought by Lille for 650,000 euros in January 2022. Today, he’s on his way to Brighton for almost 30 million euros, more than 40 times what he was worth when he left Cameroon. This is a “catastrophe for Cameroonian soccer”, according to Alain Denis Ikoul, a Cameroonian journalist for Actu Cameroun. He continues. “This poses a problem for the development of Cameroonian talent.
“For the same talent and age as these young Cameroonians, a young Brazilian, Argentinean or Uruguayan will first play his professional league in his own country for at least 2 years, then become a small national star in his country between 18 and 20, before being transferred to Europe, generally for huge sums of money”, adds Ikoul, who is worried about the future of soccer in Cameroon.
Is sporting nationality a problem?
The journalist also points to another major problem. According to him, sporting nationality plays a major role in the valuation of players. A footballer in Cameroon doesn’t fetch the same price on the market as one in Brazil. Even if both are equal in terms of intrinsic talent. “For example, Brazilian-trained Neymar first played in the Brazilian league with Santos until he was 21, before being transferred to Barça for 88 million euros. His Brazilian-trained compatriot Vinícius will first play 69 Pro games in Brazil before joining Real Madrid for 45 million euros. Argentinian Julián Álvarez, trained at River Plate, played in Argentina for 3 years before signing for Manchester City for 21 million euros (…). What about the youngsters who played Elite One in Cameroon before going out?
He continues: “The best player in the best championship in the history of Cameroonian soccer (2021-2022), Souaibou Marou, who plays for the best Cameroonian club of the 21st century, signed in South Africa for less than 200,000 euros at the age of 22. The same year, Cameroon’s two top scorers Bertrand Mani and Enow Kembe signed for less than 100,000 euros in complicated destinations. The year before, Lambert Ngueme Ariana had signed in North Africa at the age of 21 for an equally derisory sum, but he’s now off the footballing map. Today, no club in the world is prepared to spend 200,000 euros on a talent like Patient Wassou”. According to Ikoul, these are just some of the problems plaguing the Cameroonian league