Cameroon at the Women's World Cup: African football must have higher standards

Cameroon World Cup 2019
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Unsavoury scenes marred England’s win over the African nation, which once again put the continent's football in a bad light

“I've got to say, that wasn't football. That wasn't a World Cup last 16 in terms of the behaviour that I want to see from footballers. This is going out worldwide. I can't stand here and say i enjoyed it, my players didn't enjoy it.”

That's how Phil Neville described England’s 3-0 victory over Cameroon at the Women’s World Cup, which was marred by the African side’s mindless on-field actions.

The Indomitable Lionesses were left livid by several calls from referee Qin Liang over the course of the game, although, in reality, she actually let them off on several occasions at the Stade du Hainaut, Valenciennes when they could have been penalised more sternly.

After four minutes, the African side could, and probably should, have had Yvonne Leuko dismissed for an elbow on Nikita Parris, but Liang, who saw the incident, elected to issue a yellow card for the former’s violent conduct. The video assistant referee did not interfere with Qin’s decision, a strange event in itself.

After 15 minutes of play, she punished a back-pass by Augustine Ejangue to goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom after Toni Duggan pressurized the defender into the error.

The resultant indirect free-kick was put away by Steph Houghton, but the official did nothing about Ejangue spitting at Duggan after the award of the free-kick. Again, Cameroon avoided the due punishment.

Toni Duggan England

Before half-time, after Ellen White doubled England’s advantage, Alain Djeumfa’s team were incensed by the referee’s decision to give the goal after the video assistant referee intervened and communicated to Qin that White was onside. In a show of defiance, they formed a huddle in the centre circle, seemingly refusing to restart play, even after Djeumfa instructed them to do so.

A few minutes after half-time, Cameroon had Ajara Nchout’s goal correctly chalked off after the official consulted VAR. Again, they were incandescent with rage at the perceived injustice and delayed the restart for a while.

Their fury continued to go unpunished after Liang let Jeannette Yango’s shove on her minutes later go without sanction. If pushing a referee wasn't going to merit a red card, then nothing would...!

Finally, in the game’s closing stages, Alexandra Takounda shoved then brutally stamped on Houghton’s ankle. However, bizarrely, the referee only issued a yellow card to the offender, when a sending off was necessary. She’d probably had enough of the African Lionesses and couldn’t wait for the final whistle.

Ajara Nchout Cameroon 2019

Alain Djeumfa’s side (ranked 46th in the world) had done well to make it out of a group that contained Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand – all three sides are in the top 20 of the Fifa Women’s ranking – and were probably going to return home to plaudits for their efforts at the finals.

Instead, they sallied their own reputation after losing their heads and failing to show respect to themselves, their opponents and even the referee, who completely lost control of the match.

Djeumfa, perhaps seeking to present a unified front, leapt to his side’s defense after the encounter, claiming the referee favored the European nation.

“Occasionally referees make mistakes, but ultimately the referee made a lot of mistakes tonight,” he said after his side’s elimination. “Of course I’m frustrated, but as I said, football is all about fair play. We showed fair play. It’s football.”

Either Djeumfa was playing the old card of refusing to criticize his players in public, or he is none the wiser about the rules of the game and how technology works, but his post-match comments were simply ludicrous.

He further stated his side planned to get back into the game by halving the deficit but “unfortunately the officials wanted something else.”

Cameroon World Cup 2019

Those are clearly the utterances of someone who has no idea what he is talking about, and shouldn’t be masked as the comments of an aggrieved coach hurting after his side’s elimination. As stated, the big calls against his side were correct, and if anything, Cameroon could have been punished more harshly.

In the ongoing Copa America, Brazil had goals disallowed after review, and Selecao boss Tite agreed with every decision, given he knew the letter of the law and could see that the right decisions had been made.

African football needs to hold itself to the same standards if there’s to be any sort of progress.

Sunday’s farce, which embarrassed the continent, also highlighted the continuing problem that’s plagued football in the continent for years.

Additionally, anyone who attempts to play the gender card at the latest problem must look at themselves.

In the Caf Champions League final second-leg between Esperance and Wydad Casablanca, the latter's players refused to resume play after the now infamous VAR controversy, which eventually led to Gambian referee Bakary Gassama awarding the game to the home team.

The Confederation of African Football subsequently let Wydad off the hook by annulling the game, and the Tunisians’ Caf CL win, before ruling that the match be replayed on a neutral ground after the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

Ahmad Ahmad, the president of the continent’s governing body has, in the last few months, been accused of bribery and corruption, which culminated in his arrest in France a couple of weeks ago, while in the last week, the Indomitable Lions refused to fly out of Cameroon to play at the Afcon due to disagreements over bonuses.]Zimbabwe threatened to boycott their opening game against hosts Egypt for the same reason.

Both sides eventually softened their resolve, but not before nearly humiliating the continent's greatest international showpiece.

On Sunday morning, news also broke that Nigeria’s Super Falcons were refusing to leave their French hotel owing to unpaid bonuses by the Nigeria Football Federation, which was another black mark for the continent, while the men have now followed suite in Alexandria.

An alleged corrupt president, the belittling of its continental club competition, a Super Falcons side staging a sit-in in France, and Cameroon’s latest misdemeanor highlights the ills of African football which, it seems, cannot yet be surpressed.

Unfortunately, the plagued continent can’t catch a break at the moment; it never rains but it pours.