It was in 1982 that La Société Anonyme des Brasseries du Cameroun, SABC, popularly known as Les Brasseries du Cameroun launched the annual Top Cup football tournament for young Cameroonians within the age range of 12-14 years.
Seven years later, in 1989, the company's Football School was created, with a mission to offer a four-year free training course to adolescents who excel at the Top Cup football festival organised across the country. The mission in question was that, it should serve as a nursery for young Cameroonian football talents for the national football team in particular and professional football in general.
Both sports projects, namely Top Cup competition and Football School, for which Les Brasseries du Cameroun annually makes huge financial investments to sustain, falls within the enterprise's social programme package for Cameroonian youths. It should be noted that till date, Les Brasseries du Cameroun remains the only company in Cameroon that organises and funds annual football tournaments for youths.
Meanwhile, Les Brasseries du Cameroun Football School has registered gigantic success stories over the years in its mission. Some of its products have made, and are still making waves, in the Cameroon national team, as well as in professional football in Europe and elsewhere.
These include the current long-serving Captain of the Indomitable Lions, Rigobert Song Bahanag, as well as football maestro, Samuel Eto'o Fils, who plays for FC Barcelona in Spain. Others include Gérémie Njitap, Salomon Olembe, Wome Nlend, Seidou Alioum, Ngom Komé etc.
But many sports observers, including the management of Les Brasseries du Cameroun, are unanimous that in recent years things were not going on particularly well with the Top Cup competition, especially when it came to the selection of players for the football school.
The current President of the National Organising Committee of the Top Cup, Jacques Elimbi, at a recent press conference in Douala, said corruption had crept in, to influence the selection of the 'best players' for the Football School.
The selection at the local level had been left in the hands of local organising committees of the Top Cup. Some presidents of teams featuring in the Top Cup event went all out in their different localities to bribe members of the local organising committee involved in the selection of budding football talents for the Football School, to pick players from their teams.
A former Indomitable Lions' player, Victor Ndip Akem, observed recently during a chat with The Post in Douala that when corruption stepped in at the local levels in the Top Cup tournament, the then existing method of selecting players for the Football School, became ineffective and in variance with what Les Brasseries du Cameroun had in mind, namely, to offer free training courses at its football training facility.
Ndip regretted that the company's decision to involve the local population in organising the Top Cup competition was abused by some unscrupulous persons. Thus the selection of players for the Football School became more of a situation whereby mediocre players had their way, while many veritable budding talents were deprived.
The intention of Les Brasseries du Cameroun in putting colossal sums of money to organise the Top Cup and run the football institution was thus frustrated by the activities of some unscrupulous persons for selfish interests.
New Formula For Top Cup
As Elimbi explained at the press conference, the management of Les Brasseries du Cameroun could not condone the unfortunate situation and so, with the collaboration of some experts on youth football, conceived a new formula for the Top Cup tournament, especially with regard to the selection of players for the company's football school.
According to Elimbi, the new formula aims at ensuring a more transparent selection procedure for players, as well as adapting to current exigencies and international norms. The new formula falls in line with the new vision which Les Brasseries du Cameroun has adopted for both the Top Cup and the Football School.
Elimbi revealed that Les Brasseries du Camerooun, as a patriotic enterprise, had become worried with the declining prowess of Cameroon football both at the national and professional levels. He pointed out that when one looks at big professional football clubs in Europe these days, the African stars are more from countries like Ivory Coast, Mali and Guinea Conakry.
With the exception of a few cases like Eto'o, Cameroonian players have generally been relegated to playing in inferior clubs or as reserved players.In the face of this disturbing situation, the new vision of Les Brasseries du Camerooun for the Top Cup tournament and football school, is that young talents to be henceforth selected and trained, should, upon the completion of the training course, be good material for the national team, as well as well as professional football. Consequently, more emphasis would be placed on quality and not on the quantity of those in the Football School.
2008 Top Cup
The new formula adopted by Les Brasseries du Cameroun for the Top Cup went into operation from the 2008 edition of the tournament, which ran from March 29 to April 12. The innovations touch on aspects like the venues for the registration of teams for the tournament, as well as the management and training of such teams.
The biggest innovation in the tournament, however, has to do with the system for the technical evaluation of players to be short listed for selection into the school. The innovation introduces the creation of a jury, directly managed from the headquarters of Les Brasseries du Cameroun in Douala. Members of the jury are individuals considered to have a good knowledge of football gymnastics.
A total of 36 persons were selected to constitute the jury for the 2008 Top Cup. They were either football coaches with good track records, or renowned former football players. The former football players' list included names like Ndoumbe Lea, Victor Ndip Akem, Moungam Dagobert, Dikambi, Paul Nlend, Onana Eloundou, among others.
As for the coaches, they included Aboubakar Souleymanou ( Coach of national junior football team), Fritz Mbella (Littoral Provincial football coach), Robert Atah, Adjiessa (Coach for minor national team-baby Lions), Fofie, Jean Marie Djidjiwa (former coach of national Team A), Guy Bertin Djiepnang, Adolphe Eke (former coach of national cadet team), among others.
Before going to the field to carry out their assignments, members of the jury, in spite of their experiences, had to attend a seminar in Douala on the international norms on the technical evaluation of young football players. Resource persons at the seminar included Leonard Nseke (former Indomitable Lions Coach/Technical Director at Les Brasseries du Cameroun Football School), Dominique Wansi and Joseph Koska.
The members of the jury, after the seminar, were assigned to visit the over 40 playgrounds that hosted the 2008 Top Cup tournament across the country to evaluate the performances of some 5000 players in the competition. Members of the jury assigned to any locality were prohibited from having access to the list of players or to meet with officials of a team, middlemen or local officials of organising committees. Also, they were closely monitored in the field.
At the end of the field trip, Les Brasseries du Cameroun hired a renowned consultancy firm and charged them with compiling the points allocated to individual players by members of the jury in their evaluation. The firm compiled the results, which led to the first 75 on the basis of merit, being short listed for the final selection.
Further Screening in July
Meanwhile, the President of the national organising committee of Top Cup disclosed at the press conference that the 75 short listed players will be invited to camp in July, for further screening at a football tournament that will be organised for the purpose. By the end of the screening exercise, only the first 25 players on the basis of merit will be retained for admission into the school.
Also, Elimbi disclosed that not all the 25 players that would gain admission into the school will complete the four-year course. Only 15 members of each batch that enter the football school will henceforth reach the fourth and last year and thus graduate. This means that 10 players in each batch will be dropped during the first three years of their training course. This is a strategy by Les Brasseries du Cameroun, to ensure that the football school produces serious and high quality players.
Ndip Akem told The Post that the new formula for the selection of players is the best. "It is the system being applied in Ivory Coast and the famous Salif Keita Football School in Mali and we all see the results today, as players from the country are making waves in professional football in Europe". Ndip hailed Les Brasseries du Cameroun for her constant efforts in promoting Cameroonian football.
The former Indomitable Lions player advised the young Cameroonians who were fortunate to gain admission into Les Brasseries du Cameroun Football School, as well as those aspiring to make a career in football, that the only secret to success is serious training, self discipline, humility and patience.