Muambo Edward 

Football Writer, – Cameroon

According to the story from top sports reporter Martin Camus Mimb, on August 29, 1970, Michel Njiensi was appointed Cameroon’s Minister of Youth and Sports by the then President of the Republic of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Njiensi assumed duty with his package of ideas amongst which was to kick out tribalism in Cameroon’s club football.

In the opening of FECAFOOT’s Annual congress in 1971, the then Minister of Sports Michel Njiensi enacted a controversial law that sent shock waves across Cameroon’s club football circles.

“Michel Njiensi was appointed Minister of Sports by President Amadou Ahidjo”, Martin Camus Mimb recounts.

“He found out that club football in Cameroon was organized in a manner that promoted tribalism, did not facilitate national cohesion and unity.

“He decided to change the names of the clubs completely. He proposed and imposed that, the clubs will no longer retain their original names, like; Tonnerre of Yaoundé, Canon of Yaounde, Racing of Bafoussam, Etoile Filante of Garoua, Union of Douala or Caiman of Douala.”

According to then Minister of Sports, some of these teams had a lot of tribal allegiance, like Caiman that belonged to the Akwa Chiefdom, Dynamo of Douala that was a team tied to the Bassa community of Nkong Mondo in Douala, Union of Douala to the Bamileke Community of Diedo [Jeunesse Bamileke as it was formerly known] , Tonnerre of Yaoundé of the community of Mvogada or Canon to the people of the community of Nkondongo in Yaoundé which did not promote national Unity.

“He proposed what he termed ‘neutral’ names to replace the original and traditional names of these clubs, like, Yaoundé 1, Yaoundé 2, Yaoundé 3, Douala 1, Douala 2 and so on, for the rest across the country.”

Despite all efforts by his close collaborators and FECAFOOT officials to dissuade him from carrying on with such an unpopular reform, Minister Michel Njiensi maintained his decision and went on to announce what he considered a reform to promote national interest.

“The population did not take any time to vehemently make their disapproval of the controversial reform known,” Martin Camus Mimb added.

President Ahidjo, has just come back from Lagos after an international visit. On a programmed visit to Douala, he was prevented from landing by a disgruntled huge crowd of Cameroonian protesers.

“The flight arrival track was invaded by the furious crowd, carrying placards with clear messages like: ‘Njiensi Out, long live Union of Douala’, ‘Bring Down Njiensi, long live Leopard of Douala“.

It is alleged that people came as far as from Nkongsamba with their messages on their placards to protest the Minister’s decision and protect the traditional names like Aigle of Nkongsamba.

President Ahidjo could not believe what he saw. In his nature, he did not take any time to respond to his people’s cry.

On the same night, President Ahmadou Ahidjo relieved Njiensi of his functions.

Njiensi was the first Cameroonian to be appointed Minister of Youth and Sports and lasted only one year in the job due to his controversial decision.

He was replaced by Francois-Xavier Ngoubeyou who certainly learnt from the blunders of his predecessor and did not attempt such a reform as it has been the case till date, with 17 other appointments to that position, with the latest being Prof Narcisse MOUELLE KOMBI, and none has repeated that same costly error.

That’s how Cameroon’s traditional clubs succeeded to maintain their names, thanks to the people’s cry for an identity for their darling clubs.

From the Archives of great Martin Camus Mimb.

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