When Ambroise Oyongo was traded from the New York Red Bulls to the Montreal Impact on January 27, his agent called the move “not fair or right”. He was frustrated because the Red Bulls had told him his client was part of their plans, and as a result he had turned down offers from Europe.
This fact has led many to speculate the agent is a central figure in what followed: that Oyongo has yet to report to Montreal Impact training camp as a result of the Cameroon football federation (FECA FOOT) claiming that his contract with Major League Soccer in not valid.
Nicolas Onissé, the agent in question, tells Last Word On Sports this is completely false. After lawyers told him that everything Major League Soccer did was by the book, he advised Oyongo to play at least one year for the Impact before exploring other options. He and Oyongo were expecting to go to Montreal shortly after the conclusion of the Africa Cup of Nations.
“I told Ambroise that he was obligated to go to Montreal,” says Onissé. “We can’t do anything else, we will discuss this with them.”
He had preliminary discussions with Nick De Santis and the Montreal Impact, and the situation was progressing. Then FECA FOOT stepped in, telling Oyongo that his contract with Montreal was illegal as a result of the initial transfer that brought him to MLS, and that as a result he was unattached. That transfer has been highlighted as source of this entire issue, but the trade to Montreal made the situation a lot worse.
At the start of 2015 it was revealed that New York Red Bulls had not officially signed Oyongo, and that he was on loan from Cameroonian club Coton Sport FC. That was untrue, as Oyongo had no contract with them at the time. Oyongo was actually on loan from FC Rainbow, who it was revealed later was an amateur club who could not legally sign professional contracts.
“He never played for Rainbow, he just signed with them,” explains Onissé. Oyongo was told that if he didn’t sign with Rainbow he wouldn’t get a deal with MLS. This contract was never registered with FECA FOOT or the Cameroon soccer league, they didn’t know about it until recently.
Early January was also when it was announced the New York Red Bulls officially signed Oyongo and completed the transfer with FC Rainbow. Onissé says Major League Soccer sent a message to FECA FOOT to make the transfer official, the confederation never responded.
When Major League Soccer again sent FECA FOOT documents outlining the transfer between Montreal and New York they responded, this time claiming the contract was invalid. Now Onissé says he is forced to essentially sit on the sidelines while MLS and FECA FOOT deal with this situation.
If it was simply an invalid deal with New York, the situation would not be as serious. The Red Bulls would only have lost the rights to the player, who in theory they could have re-signed as he became an unattached player.The Montreal trade made everything worse because Montreal sent actual assets to the Red Bulls for what could turn out to be an invalid player contract.
While he admits that he doesn’t have proof, Onissé thinks that Red Bulls may have known something was amiss when the Cameroonian Association didn’t respond. They seemed very eager to retain Oyongo in December, but a month later had traded him to Montreal. He thinks part of that trade could have been distancing themselves from this issue.
Both sides are taking action. Montreal Impact suspended Oyongo on February 3rd without pay. League lawyers have contacted Onissé to say they will suspend Oyongo indefinitely if he does not report in two weeks. FECA FOOT maintains their position on the fact that he is unattached at this time.
Oyongo is also in the middle of this situation, as the trade has also affected him immensely. Oyongo would be held out of a crucial Africa Cup of Nations game against Ivory Coast because of the trade.
While the situation as a whole is “crazy” to Onissé, as is the idea that it could benefit his player. While he could do a deal in Serie A, or other places in Europe where Oyongo has been offered a contract, it would be very difficult to do until this situation is resolved. He is ultimately worried that his player could lose valuable playing time.
“The Cameroon Federation is fully in its role of checking transactions and transfers,” explains Onissé. “They found that it was a [legal issue]. It never goes well when you try to sell something that is not yours.”
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