Cameroon – Champions Best Stars Shoulder the Hopes of a Desperate Region
Yaounde, 16 August 2021.
Winners of this year’s South West amateur championship, Best Stars Academy, bear the burden of qualifying a desperate region back into Cameroon’s national league two. Absent from the national scene since 2016, the region has had to hang its head in shame each time parachuting outsiders land in their backyards and relish their state-of-the-art infrastructure.
On Saturday 14 August, Best Stars defeated city rivals LIFCA four-two (4-2) on post-match penalties to clinch the 2020-2021 title, their third after 2014 and 2015.
Officials of the much-trumpeted final gave no room for extra time after both teams failed to score in regular time.
The historic Limbe centenary stadium was sold out ahead of the incredibly popularized mini interpools final. But on the turf, the game lacked magic, effervescence and the entertaining drama spectators had set out to watch.
Going into the contested clash of equal heavyweights, Best Stars won all three playoffs in Group A, while the Limbe Football Club Association topped Pool B with seven points.
“I am happy about [my boys’ performance] today. The team displayed its value and character,” Best Stars’ coach Djoufack Saturnin told reporters.
“They are a good side. They’re a young side and they have played together for long,” the region’s football boss, Ndive Thomas, told Volcanicsport.
Best Stars relied on the experience garnered throughout their hyper charged season. Firstly, the 2021 Geremi Njitap Cup Challenge where minims were consoled with silver medals after narrowly losing on penalties to Ecole de football des Brasseries du Cameroun (EFBC), in July in Yaounde.
Then, their commendable run at the famous annual EFBC competition in Douala which ended sadly as they lost that crucial semifinal tie to EFBC peers.
At the national finals of the maiden youth tournament, Best Stars’ campaign came to a close at the group stage after a win and two defeats. Coach Djoufack Saturnin’s cadets however retained vital lessons that have become ingredients of today’s glory.
Despite losing their first regional final, LIFCA look up to the future with optimism. Coached today by Augustin Tchoupo, the side was formed from the ashes of Saint Peters FC Ekondo-Titi a few years back.
The city council club incarnates Mayor Andrew Motanga Monjimba’s determination to promote sports, talent and social cohesion within his municipality. Maybe, someday, LIFCA will come back strongly.
Massive mobilization met with burning enthusiasm as the people reunited in an aggressive bid to produce worthy champions. Champions capable of climbing into the national league two, where the region has longed to return.
Ndive Thomas asserts that “unity is the secret. There is a degree of collaboration amongst club presidents now in the region and we’re all having one goal, [which is] bringing back elite football.”
Since Dynamic FC and Njalla Quan Sports fell down from what is commonly called Elite Two in 2016, the football-loving population of the South West has been conspicuously absent from the national arena.
The region’s one-time greats Tiko United – winners of league one in 2009 – have not been able take up the challenge either. Neither Mount Cameroon, Prisons Buea nor Opopo, to name a few.
Flashing back, at the 2016 national qualifiers for Elite Two in west regional chief town Bafoussam, the endeavours of flagbearers Victoria United were marred by inexperience, selfish interest and political rivalry.
Thereafter, the region had to wait longer for another opportunity. The following season, amateur leagues were cancelled by the normalization committee.
In 2019, spurred by the newly elected administration under Ndive Thomas, the region threw their weight behind PWD Kumba. Unfortunately, wishes became blushes as the Meme club flopped in east regional capital Bertoua.
In 2020, things suddenly went sour when Covid-19 forced all football competitions to an abrupt stop.
This is 2021! Best Stars Academy are champions and the South West region is guaranteed another candidate for qualifiers into league two.
It is either Best Stars take the South West region to the land of promise or bear the brunt of desperate football lovers.
Saturday’s triumph endorses claims that they are the best formation centre in the South West region. The side is credited for Cameroonian professional footballers [like Kunde Malong] dotted all over Europe and Africa. The Limbe-based club is also an acclaimed breeder of national team players. James Goodman, Jemea Likanjo Soppo, Tetteh Evans, who have been instrumental to this year’s brilliance are U17 Indomitable Lions.
That said, national interpools will be a veritable litmus test for the seaside academicians.
“The team is ready financially, physically and morally,” says former Opopo tactician Mbock Maput.
“The problem in the region is [lack of] love. This word has been missing because of jealousy and envy,” Mbock intimated.
“Opopo had all these qualities under a charismatic president Ndive Thomas. But the region did not [unite] as one,” Mbock.
Nevertheless, Mbock sees light at the farther end of the tunnel. “This season,” he says, “I saw lots of cooperation and unity, to push things and correct the mistakes of the past.”
Football Writer Angu Lesley, who has covered the championship for seven years, adds that “the investment from stakeholders, the structures, newfound solidarity plus the desire to achieve Elite Two promotion are contributing factors.”
As a winning strategy, President Ndive Thomas says “a regional commission will be formed to oversee the affairs of the team.”
Ndive worries less as “the players this year are much younger and shouldn’t have any problem [than] thinking of victory.”
In a clarion call he says “we’re called upon to stay united behind Best Stars and to support them in any way necessary so they can succeed in the name of our region.”