The kick-off of the new Cameroon women’s football season was given on Saturday at the Bepanda Annex stadium in Douala between Authentic Ladies and Lékié Football Ladies. The local side defeated their visitors 4-2 in the thrilling opener that attracted thousands of spectators.
The beautiful encounter showed sharp progress in the quality of our women’s game, capturing the attention of thousands of spectators as it also leveraged the stunning talent and beauty of our young girls who have chosen soccer not only as a way of life but as a trade.
There is no gamesaying that women’s football has gathered steam in recent years, its impact felt across the country and beyond, as the sport has a huge potential to be a source of revenue for hundreds of homes in Cameroon. With the advent of one of the top brewery companies in the country as a sponsor, being a professional female footballer in Cameroon is no doubt the envy of many young girls. Very many of them dream of filling the big boots of the Gaelle Deborah Enganamouits, the Aboudi Onguenes, the Nchout Ajaras, the Michelle Ngono Manis and many others, but I bet you, very few people really know what it is like to be a ‘professional’ footballer in Cameroon.
And so, when the Guinness Women’s Super League was first launched in 2020, hopes were high in the women’s footballing circle. For the players, it meant an end to mockery and ridicule, an end to insecurity and, above all, the payment of a monthly salary. But much more than that, it meant social recognition. But three seasons later, the situation is rather sad and worrying, as many of the players are alone, and continue to live in the most precarious conditions. A recent study carried out by Synafoc, the Cameroon footballers trade union, “a regularly paid Cameroon professional women’s football player lives on twenty-five thousand FRS CFA a month”.
The Synafoc report holds that when salaries arrive, they are first deducted from bank charges and then from various bonuses imposed by the club that have to be paid to the technical staff, or some team-mates who are not included in the salary file, provided to the federation by the club.
Concretely speaking, the sum is well below the minimum wage guaranteed by the state, which is between forty-five and sixty thousand FRS CFA. Female footballers who do not rely solely on their parents for a daily upkeep hardly have a complete square meal, but mind you, their beauty and splendour covers such a great deal of sadness. Sadness and agony that can only be shared with close family members and friends within the confines of their rooms.
Such is the power of a woman, but for just how long!! Many have undoubtedly proven to be skillful ball jugglers, but behind the word “juggle” lies the misery of women’s football in our country. Misery which exposes female footballers to all kinds of abuse from managers, trainers, and the outside world.
To achieve their dreams of playing professional football, some have given up everything and sometimes broken all ties with their families. And as if that wasn’t enough, others have to take care of one or two children on top of everything else.
For those who can’t weather the storm of morality, the tendency is to indulge in unsavoury activities or give in to indecent proposals from coaches and other managers, just for a meal. How can you not give in if the salary you receive does not cover your incompressible expenses, which amounts to around 70,000 CFA francs, to say the least? Let’s do the simple mathematics; a monthly rent for example would cost 10,000 FRS, 1,500 FRS for a mail a day, 4 training sessions per week that is 1000frs times 16 days per month amounting to 16,000 FRS per month, and this gives a grand total of 61 thousand FRS for a salary of 50, 000 FRS.
Many who have held their sanity closely to their chest have resorted to doing meaneal jobs such as bricklaying, hairdressing and petty trading in their spare time. This, in order to make ends meet.
According to a survey conducted in 2021 by a former female footballer turned Education scholar, Pulchérie Jovani Assene, 75 percent of Cameroonian female footballers have children to support, 15 percent rely only on themeselves and only 10percent live under suitable conditions with the support of their families. The study also shows that some 45 percent of domestic female footballers have incomes outside of what they earn playing football. It is also revealed that the vast majority of female footballers who have other jobs in addition to football are involved in small-scale trade or are employed part-time in sports betting companies, if not serving customers in bars or hairdressing saloons.
To make matters worse, last season the country’s football federation, FECAFOOT, cancelled its contribution in the payment of players’ salaries in the women’s super league.
Funny and sad, but such is the daily reality lived by our so called domestic professional female footballers. And so, the following questions come begging for answers: How does a female footballer live on twenty-five thousand FRS a month when she has to pay her monthly rents, eat like a top athlete, go to training four times a week and or maintain her youthful body?
In the scattered thoughts of Katche Rene (our Editorialist), it would surely take only an extraterrestrial to navigate through the very daunting financial dire straits experienced by our female folks in domestic football. For the very many kick442.com spoke to and who prefer anonymity, hope will unfortunately not come from the clubs as only a few make a frantic effort to improve the working and living conditions of their players. In spite of the great misery our female footballers go through, many have kept their heads above the waters with the strong belief that salvation will perhaps come from a national team call up.
But again, how feasible is this, when very many stories of corruption and favouritism are being told year in year out of how only the highest bidders stand a chance of gaining a call up to the national team. It is a sorry caravan whose blame can partly be attributed to the country’s chronic shortage of lack of interest in the women’s sport.
The real culprit is the paralysis that has resulted from the endless power struggles surrounding the management of our women’s football. The report card makes for grim reading: no fifa World Cup and no Africa Nations cup for our senior women’s national team. And as the ladies pull their socks in readiness for the 2024 Olympic games double qualifier against Uganda, the onus is now on the country’s FA and government to use the right keyboard and find a perfect roadmap for the women’s game in the country.
By Rene Katche – Columnist, kick442.com
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