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MR SCHAFER, More than just conjecture ? (Camfoot Forum)

It will soon be two years since Mr Schafer was appointed as head coach of Cameroon’s indomitable lions. This is in itself a remarkable achievement for a man who was expected in many circles to last but a few months (Cameroon having built a solid reputation of firing coaches without proper justification for good cause). It is therefore in this somewhat uncertain atmosphere that Mr Schafer took control of the lions and judging from the circumstances surrounding his predecessors’ dismissal, he must have surmised rightly that his continued stay as head coach of the lions will probably depend less on the results he will produce with the lions than on the goodwill of his bosses, some of his predecessors having been fired at the peak of their achievement.

Le 27 juillet 2003

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It did not take long for this theory to be put to the test. Just prior to the Japan/Korea world cup, the lions were hit by a crisis which put the lion’s participation in jeopardy - the players having gone on strike over unpaid bonuses refused to leave Paris. They will eventually arrive at the world cup more than five days behind schedule. As this drama unfolded, little was heard of or from Mr Schafer. He refused to take a stand one way or the other, even when there were reports of persistent interference by politicians in the daily management of the team. The lions performance at the world cup will eventually be, to say the least disappointing (Judging from the extremely high expectations that were placed on the lions, expectations fuelled by Mr Schafer himself). Because of Cameroon’s previous relationship with its coaches, and these unpalatable results, Mr Schafer was largely expected to be fired.

Yet even before the team left the Far East and before anyone had had time to investigate the causes of this debacle, the president of Cameroon’s football federation, Mr Iya Mohamed declared that he fully expected Mr Schafer to maintain his job. Clearly the authorities of Cameroon football had found their man. In Mr Schafer’s defence it must be said that he had mitigating circumstances for this poor showing in the Paris strike. So had his predecessors, Cameroon never having given any trainer hitch free preparations for a tournament. With Mr Schafer’s reappointment, he became the first ILS coach in memory to loose a major tournament and keep his job.

Mr Schafer has clearly learnt from these events. Subsequent strive in the ILS will be treated with characteristic silence or Mr Schafer will come down heavily on the side of the authorities - the lions are not called to camp for eight months, Winnie does throw a fit ; Wome is suddenly dropped from the ILS, (presumably for criticising the minister) Winnie refuses to point fingers. The ILs arrive in Paris in batches for the Confederations cup and the team has less than a week together, but Mr Schafer is full of praise for the authorities for a perfect preparation. To top it all is Mboma’s interview before the confederations cup. Mr Schafer declares that Mboma should have shut up for silence is gold (Some will disagree Mr Schafer). He wonders if Mr Bidoung Mpatt, Mohamed or Nguijol will ever want Mboma back in the national team again. This declaration in itself lends credence to the ills Mboma is criticising. Yes Mr Schafer we now know who draws up the list for the national team.

These declarations have since made nonsense of the speculation that his silence during the world cup crisis was due to language barriers. Mr Schafer can and does make himself heard when he chooses to. In recognition of this mutually beneficial approach, the football authority in Yaounde has not failed to come through. Mr Schafer’s persistence on ignoring an administrative order for him to take up residence in Cameroon has been treated with unusual complacency.

Yet Mr Schafer came to the ILS with arguably the richest CV of any ILs coach, having had a good run in the bundesliga both as player and coach and strapped a continental trophy to his belt. At one point he was tipped to be a possible national team coach for the German national team. Unlike many of his predecessors in the ILs he was not a total unknown when he came to Cameroon, even if he had somewhat fallen from favour. He has since improved on these achievements since joining the Cameroon national team, winning the AFNC soon after his arrival, during which the team did not concede a single goal in regular time. As if to say “jamais un sans deux”, he will repeat the same performance at the Confederations cup, loosing to France only in extra time in the finals.

The world cup fiasco not withstanding, Winnie Schafer’s achievement with the lions so far has been more than honourable. Yet he has failed to attain the hero status of a Claude Leroy or a Nepomniachi in Cameroon. Supporters of the ILs have continued to cast suspicious glances at his unusual relationship with his bosses. As long as this relationship nourished by Mr schafer’s golden silence rule continues to bear fruit on the pitch, Mr Schafer can reasonably expect to keep his job, else he might find out firsthand what the people mean when they say Cameroon can be slippery during the dry season... The voice of the people being the voice of god, be wary Mr Schafer.

By Ndopman

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