The 2019 Cameroon professional football league is now history, following the crowning of Union de Mouvement sportive of Loum and Panthere sportive of Nde last Sunday June 9, 2019, as winners of the league one and two respectively. Bookmakers were stunned when the two sides emerge as Champions, given that they never really looked like title contenders, in the course of the season. But football being a game full of surprises saw it happened that way.

Cotonsport of Garoua, AS FAP of Yaoundé and Leoapard Sportive of Douala, were bookmakers favorites to clinch the title in the various leagues, but they all collapsed along the way. Many have been questioning what happened to these teams along the way. Let’s start with the league two sides, FAP and Leopard. The two sides were making a comeback into the second tier of Cameroon football, after they all emerged top of their groups in the last national interpools. Surprisingly they never looked like new comers in the first phase of the championship, as FAP dominated pool A, while Leopard was unstoppable in pool B.

FAP emerge top of pool A in the first phase, with 24 points harvested in just 12 games, scoring 22 times and conceding only nine. They suffered just two defeats in that run, and three draws. With the involvement of their head coach Alain Djeumfa with the indomitable lionesses of Cameroon, FAP was always caught shifting from one coach to the other, but that was no call for concern, as the needed results were still obtained. Then came the playoffs, which were to determine if they will secure a place for the top flight. FAP started the playoffs with a 3#4 defeat to center regional rivals, Renaissance of Ngoumou, and failed to correct the errors in their second game against Canon, which they still lost 3#nil. They however managed two straight wins, against Leopard and Panthere, and thought they can deliver the killer punch on the last playing day against Bamboutos, but again Gregoire Atangana Ngandi and his boys collapsed to the Mangwa boys. So FAP ended the season ended the season with the top scorer in the league, Fredreck Etoum Bang, but failed to get the much needed league one ticket. FAP’s difficult run in the playoffs can be partly attributed to the lack of experience by most of the players who were still discovering elite football for the first time, and experienced guys like Emmanuel Che, and Abdoulaye Alingar could not help matters.

Just like FAP, Leopard Sportive of Douala had fairy tale ride in the first phase of the championship, but could not maintain the momentum in the playoffs. A team that suffered just one defeat before the playoffs, and won their first two games of the playoffs, went ahead to lineup three straight defeats. Leopard’s 5#1 defeat by FAP on day three of the playoffs send a dangerous signal to the Bana Ba Njoh, but coach Maurice Mpondo and Co, could not act fast in their next outing. Football writer and analyst, Lawrence Nkede told that the format of the championship partly contributed to Leopard’s last minute collapse. He said “The format of the league was disadvantageous to Leopard because if we had a championship of just home and away games, Leopard could have better handle to situation and make it to the top flight”. He continued “unfortunately the playoffs are a set of games played in a short period of time. The way you look at playoffs is not the same way you do when you are playing the long championship. So I think the problem with Leopard was the preparations. It’s all about management handling their players for a short period of time, with matches played after every three or five days”.

For cotonsport of Garoua, that one all draw with Dragon of Yaounde in their fourth playoff game, never did any good to the cotonites. This coupled with a sudden poor form for Daouda Kamilou and Arnaud Sibiri, cost the 15 times champions much. Kamilou came into the playoffs haven scored 10 league goals in the first phase, but only managed to score from the penalty spot, against Dragon. Sibiri who was on a run of seven goals in seven games, suddenly lost his killer instinct in front of goal and coming up against a very physical UMS side on the last day of play, made matters worse for them. The cotonites have quickly changed from a team that used to scare opponents, and is gradually becoming a moderate team. Many have partly blamed cotonsport’s dismal performance this season to the transfer police, which have seen the cotonites going in for medium players, rather than top quality as was the case before. Aime Gerard Mangolo and Francis Elimbi, were amongst the high profile arrivals, but have had little or no impact, as they failed to supplement Daouda Kamilou in times of need.

Cotonsport failure to win the championship just came to add more salts to injury, after their disgraceful exit in the continental competitions earlier this term. Cotonsport and FAP of Yaoundé may still have another opportunity to grab a piece of silverware this season due to their involvement in the Cameroon cup quarter finals, but for Leopard, they will have to go back to the drawing board and rethink for next season.

@afesehapong (Twitter).