Rendering Sports Infrastructures Productive

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The appalling stories of the yesteryears when Cameroon prided herself as one of the football powerhouses in Africa regrettably so with little or no infrastructures to show for the successes is now a thing of the past. So much time and resources have been dedicated to now dot the country with state-of-the-art football facilities capable of hosting any global competition. 

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The 2016 Female Africa Nations Cup which Cameroon hosted in Limbe, Douala and Yaounde, the just-ended Africa Nations Championship which took place in the same cities and the upcoming 24-nation African Nations Cup in the male category billed for 2022 have endowed the country with what analysts have qualified as futuristic football edifices. They are really sources of national pride and Cameroonians from north to south and east to west have been all smiles ever since the sorry picture of the past started changing and keeps doing so. 

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No one doubts the huge sacrifices government is making to get the fine infrastructures in place. Reason why President Paul Biya in his 2021 Youth Day message underlined that, “In spite of the difficult economic situation, our country is well prepared for both events. We have built ultra-modern facilities, some of which were used for the first time during CHAN that has just ended.” Understandably so as on account of their multiple achievements, Cameroon’s young sports men and women deserve the sacrifices made for these major investments. 

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A troubling question however remains what becomes of the infrastructures after the competitions must have come and gone. The billions of scarce CFA Francs; sometimes borrowed to put in place these infrastructures, need to be refunded to the donor countries or agencies. It would be counter-productive to go get money from elsewhere to pay back the loans contracted to bequeath Cameroon with the Japoma, Olembe, Bafoussam and Limbe newly constructed stadia likewise the Yaounde Omnisport, Douala Reunification and Garoua infrastructures wholly rehabilitated to give the country of the Indomitable Lions the structures worthy of the five-time African champions. 

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Inasmuch as the available and soon-to-be completed structures continually serve as genuine motives of pride for Cameroonians and an encouragement to win more victories, one worry remains disturbing -  How to preserve the infrastructures and render them profitable. The fear is more upsetting as the surge in football infrastructures contrasts with the performance of almost all Cameroon’s selections on the international scene. Except for the surprising victories notably of the senior men’s team at the 2017 Nations Cup in Gabon and the Under-17 selection at the category’s African Championship in Tanzania in 2019, Cameroon’s performance at the continental and world scenes have been a shadow of the yesterdays’ outputs for the past decades now. Internal quarrelling has hijacked the king sport.  

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These infightings have got barely nothing to do with the giftedness of the country’s talents in the sports. Rather, it is largely blamed on stakeholders who seemingly consider their egocentric gains more important than the national interest the game has served. It’s no secret to anyone that football in Cameroon is like a religion, uniting more than any best speech.

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Reminding Cameroonians and youth in particular that, “We have to learn to preserve them,” meaning the sports infrastructures, absolutely needs to be given serious thought. How would Cameroon preserve the infrastructures when football is played more in the offices than pitches? Where is the local championship? What about youth and female football? The answers are still blowing in the wind as football officials keep dragging on with blame game. 

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Preserving the infrastructures and rendering them profitable are more than necessary. For success, football on the turf should be made interesting so that the stadia can generate money from gate takings for instance. They should as well be made to serve as good terrains to detect and groom talents to be competitive enough to go fetch back the lost glories the sports has given the country.  

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