The Oyongo Files: FECAFOOT is No Stranger to Controversy

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The recent trade to Montreal of Cameroonian speedster Ambroise Oyongo has come under a bit of controversy.  Last week, French publication l’Equipe reported that the Cameroonian football confederation FECAFOOT claimed that Oyongo was not able to sign a professional contract because his original club Rainbow FC Bamenda is not actually a pro club. Instead, according to FECAFOOT, any contract Oyongo may have had with New York Red Bulls when the MLS club purchased his rights in January is rendered null and void, according to the confederation.

This entry is just another in the saga that has surrounded Oyongo since the new year began.  First, Last Word’s Mitch Tierney reported via Oyongo’s agent Nicolas Onisse that he had been fielding offers from Europe for the young midfielder.  At that point, with Oyongo playing for his native Cameroon in Africa Cup of Nations, Onisse stated that he and New York had agreed to sit down after the tournament’s conclusion to discuss Oyongo’s future with the club.

However, while AFCON was still going on, Oyongo was traded, along with Eric Alexander, an International roster spot, and allocation cash, to the Montreal Impact for central midfielder Felipe Martins and the top allocation spot.  The Red Bulls then turned that spot into US Men’s National Team veteran Sacha Kljestan, who seems to be the centerpiece in a very talented midfield scheme created by new bench boss Jesse Marsch and sporting director Ali Curtis.  This trade seemed to enrage Onisse a bit.  Again, Mitch Tierney spoke with him.  At that time, Onisse told Last Word, “Transferring a player, without telling him, without asking his opinion remains a serious problem in MLS,”

Shortly thereafter, the report from L’Equipe was released.

When asked for comment, Montreal simply quoted the statement they released via twitter.

On Friday, L’Impact Technical Director Adam Braz stated via mlssoccer.com that “On our end, we’re calm, and it’s clear he’s in breach of contract. He’s suspended without pay until he arrives for training camp, and now, we’ve been in touch closely with the league, and they’re taking matters to FIFA and to the Cameroonian Federation.”

““He can’t go play anywhere else,” Braz added. “He belongs to MLS and to the Montreal Impact. Once he comes in, I think he’ll really enjoy it here in terms of seeing what our club is all about and what our city is all about.”

Indeed. Other than a brief statement from an MLS source echoing the same sentiment, both the Impact and Major League Soccer remain tight lipped on the continuing controversy.

Speaking of controversy, FECAFOOT is no stranger to questionable situations. In July, africanliberty.org reported that FIFA had ruled that their most recent elections were manipulated by the Cameroonian government.  FECAFOOT’s own ethics watchdog committee stepped in and restored the wronged candidates to the ballot.  In addition to that, the Cameroonian confederation came under fire for allegedly manipulating three World Cup Qualifying matches, especially the match vs Croatia.

FECAFOOT’s dance with corruption goes all the way back to the 1980’s where confederation president Issa Hayatou repeatedly has been accused of accepting bribes to persuade his votes one way or another in the World Cup bidding process, the latest round coming in 2010 via a report by African Investigative Reporters.  Hayatou, of course, vehemently and repeatedly has denied all allegations, as FIFA itself has recently come under tremendous fire for accepting bribes for the bidding process that went into the 2022 World Cup, currently in development in Qatar. FIFA, of course, has suppressed the release of any results from their internal investigations, saying that the findings of an independent investigator are “inconclusive.”

In reference to the three 2014 World Cup Qualifiers, FECAFOOT released the following statement via their website:

“Recent allegations of fraud around Cameroon 2014 FIFA World Cup three preliminary games, especially Cameroon vs. Croatia, as well of the “existence of seven bad apples [in our national team]” do not reflect the values and principles promoted by our administration, in line with FIFA Code of Conduct and the ethics of our nation. We wish to inform the general public that, though not yet contacted by FIFA in regards to this affair, our administration has already instructed its Ethics Committe, to further investigate these accusations. We are strongly committed to employ all means necessary to resolve this disruptive matter in the shortest delays. In the meantime we legitimately request that any related information, unless brought before our federation and/or its Ethics Committee, be held for or treated as mere assumption. We wish to reinstate that in fifty-five (55) years of existence, FECAFOOT has never been sanctioned for, involved in, or even linked to match fixing or any fraud of any kind.”

FIFA also said via spokesperson Delia Fischer that, after investigation, there was no evidence of match fixing, although FECAFOOT referred to the existence of “six or seven bad apples” in the statement above.

In addition to that, mobile phone company MTN pumped in $600k of a total $800k into a project to renovate a number of soccer stadiums in Cameroon.  FECAFOOT was providing the additional $200k.  However, $146k of the project money ended up in the pocket of Sports Minister Thierry Augustin Edzoa.  When asked about it he stated the money was so he could “breathe easier.”

The stadium renovations never were completed, and the original $600k provided by MTN is still unaccounted for. One has to wonder where that money went, considering it was appropriated for a project that was seemingly never started, let alone completed.

Back to the case of Ambroise Oyongo, Mitch Tierney again turned to player agent Nicolas Onisse for more information. In this conversation, Onisse revealed that Oyongo was told that he would be unable to get a deal in Major League Soccer unless he signed with Rainbow FC Bamenda. The confusing part is that Oyongo was already playing for a pro club at the time, specifically Coton Sport FC. According to Onisse, he never played for Rainbow, but simply signed with them in order to complete the loan deal to MLS in early 2014.  Onisse also stated that MLS reached out to FECAFOOT twice, and they only received a response once the player was traded to Montreal, a club that finished last in the Eastern Conference in 2014, but was one of only two MLS clubs to advance out of the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League.  While Onisse was upset with the trade to Montreal, he advised his client to play for the Impact and they will revisit a move at a later date.

Of course, MLS has had it’s own issues with contract controversies, with the questions surrounding the announcement of former Chelsea and current Manchester City midfielder Frank Lampard to expansion franchise NYCFC. According to most sources, Lampard never had a contract with MLS, despite being announced as a designated player for the club in the Fall of 2014. The league put all of that behind them when Lampard officially signed a two year contract in January.

Stay tuned, more information on this developing story as it becomes available.

Featured Photo: Bill Twomey, Bill Twomey Photography

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