Cameroon: Media Ban Sparks Readiness Debate on AFCON’s Flagship Stadium
The restriction of journalists from covering tonight’s FIFA World Cup qualifier encounter between Cameroon and Malawi has sparked outrage and a new debate on the readiness of the stadium set to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations.
“In application of the Covid-19 protocols in force for CAF and FIFA matches, the Confederation of African Football has decided not to allow the presence of the media for the Cameroon vs Malawi match,” reads a statement from the Cameroon Football Federation – Fecafoot.
Sports reporters responded with an immediate boycott of the pre-match presser scheduled on Thursday at the conference room of the match venue in Yaounde.
“…It is of no use for us to be here because we have colleagues from Bamenda, Bafoussam, from far to cover this match,” Marc Chouamo, president of Cameroon Association of Sports Journalists (CASJ) Douala branch flared.
“…We have a problem with CAF that isn’t considerate…We are not going to cover this press conference. We will not do it for you. We are going to liberate the hall,” concluded Chouamo as colleagues joined him to march out.
In a strongly worded communiqué, the CASJ national bureau “strongly condemns this grave and incomprehensive decision by CAF which is fraught with consequences and undermines press freedom.”
Reporters are baffled that, suddenly, Fecafoot and the Ministry of Sports are restricting access to the Olembe stadium whereas journalists were not disallowed at the Central African Republic – Cape Verde (1-1) qualifiers in Douala on Wednesday. Besides, there were no strict restrictions during the African Nations Championship staged earlier this year, even as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic surged.
“Measures,” Cameroon’s minister of sports Narcisse Mouelle Kombi said, “have however been taken so that this important match can be broadcasted live by the National Station, the Cameroon Radio Television.”
The ban has sparked a new debate on possible dark truths about the Olembe stadium’s readiness five months to Africa’s biggest football rendezvous. Named after President Paul Biya, the stadium is set to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the upcoming AFCON.
To some, the ministry of sports is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to conceal realities about the overdue sports complex. The infrastructure to blame for the withdrawal of the 2019 AFCON from Cameroon is allegedly broiled in an infamous mismanagement and embezzlement saga.
Earlier this year, Magil construction increased workers from 504 to 788. It also deployed 15 local subcontractors as government disbursed additional 6,3 billion Fcfa (about 117,120,738 dollars) to speed up operations.
The project took off over five years ago with the view to construct a 60,000-seat stadium, two training pitches, an Olympic swimming pool, a handball court, a basketball court, a volleyball court, a tennis court, a gymnasium, a seventy-room five-star hotel, a museum and a cinema hall.
From Italian engineering company “Grouppo Piccini” to Magil, the Olembe stadium has consumed over 303 million dollars, yet languishing in precariousness. Some observers alleged it’s the biggest scam in post-independent Cameroon.