MTN ELITE ONE: What We Learned From the Playoffs!

So the playoffs have come and gone, and Coton Sports of Garoua is Elite One Champion-yet again, that's three in a row for the Cotonites and 18 titles in total. As the curtains close and the different clubs reflect on what could have been, we have decided to draw a few lessons from the Elite One Playoffs, 2023 edition. 

MTN ELITE ONE: What We Learned From the Playoffs!

What did we learn from the 2023 Edition of the MTN ELITE ONE Championship Playoffs?

  • Cameroonians are still crazy about football.

Jock Stein, former Scottish Center back, once said: "Without fans, football is nothing." A simple phrase at the time, but more than 40 years later, it has become part of the universal language of the most popular sport in the world. 

When the total attendance for the first day of the MTN ELITE ONE playoffs was announced, it was received with a round of applause from the raucous crowd. 27 640 had answered present. That was the highest attendance ever recorded for an ELITE ONE match in Cameroon. Day two was even better; 31 695 showed up. 

What this means is that Cameroonians are still crazily in love with football, and it is up to the football authorities to tap into this love and make Cameroonian football great again. The emergence of several fan groups at the Omnisport stadium was a testament to how much fanatism there is. The displays from Bamboutos and Coton fans throughout the competition were a joy to behold.

The objective, no doubt, is for such turnouts to be a constant theme during the regular season, where tens of thousands will fill up stadia around the country week in, week out, and not only during the playoffs. Nonetheless, the 2023 playoffs proved that things are moving in the right direction; long may it continue! 

  • Coton Sports are still the team to beat.

Coton Sports of Garoua is Cameroon's most successful Club. Sunday's title was their 18th in total and 3rd Elite One honor in as many years. To put this in perspective, Cameroon's second most successful club is Canon of Yaounde, with 10 titles to their credit. In fact, since Coton joined the top tier of Cameroon football in 1992, they've finished inside the League's top two in all but 3 seasons. 

These are mind-blowing levels of consistency, and although clubs like Eding Sports and UMS of Loum have put up commendable challenges to Coton Sport's dominance, the Cotton cutters have always found a way to come back stronger. 

Even though Coton's performances in continental competitions leave much to be desired, the 18-time champions of Cameroon are showing no signs of slowing down in the domestic league.

Granted, Bamboutous de Mbouda ran the Champions close this year, but they, like every other team in the country, will have to work extremely hard if they want to break Coton Sports' dominance in the league. 

MTN ELITE ONE: What We Learned From the Playoffs!

  • Bamboutos and Canon are on the Right track.

Bamboutos of Mbouda and Canon of Yaounde finished Second and third, respectively, but it was the Mangwa boys who won the hearts of most neutrals. Coach Arroga has done a magnificent job since taking over this team and will be proud of their displays throughout the playoffs.  

Consistently deploying his fluid 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formations, Bamboutos came closest to hurting Coton Sports of Garoua, only narrowly losing 1-0 to the eventual champions after a moment of Brilliance from Patient Wassou. A comprehensive 4-1 victory over Gazelle on the last day ensured that the team from the west finished the playoffs with their heads held high. They will be very optimistic about their chances for next season.

Canon, on their part, didn't quite live up to expectations. Still, they recover from a demoralizing defeat to Bamboutous and gave a very good account of themselves in that final game against Coton. 

The Kpa-kum, one of Cameroon's oldest Clubs and 10-time champions will be consoled that they are well and truly back among the big boys of Cameroon, having now appeared in consecutive playoffs.

If they manage to keep top talents like Captain Yves Moukoko, top scorer Emmanuel Mahop, and star man Paul Henri Tchikeu among others, for next season, who is to say they won't go all the way?

  • Fecafoot needs to Invest in Youth Development.

The signs are good, very good indeed. For those who closely followed the playoffs, there is no denying that there was a lot of raw, young, and promising talents on display. 

Champions Coton sports of Garoua had the youngest team in the playoffs, with the likes of  Patient Wassou (19 years), Abdouraman Daman (20 years), and Che Malone (24 years) all playing important roles for the champions. William Ekanga Lobe (20 years) scored an absolute screamer on the opening day and was a major fixture in Bamboutos's brilliant run in the competition. 20-year-old Calice D'or Nwatsock of Gazelle Garoua received the prize for best young player of the season.

It is refreshing to see such young players cutting it at the very top, and this can only be beneficial in the long run to the different levels of the national team, especially to the youth teams whose struggles have been well-documented.

It is true that the current FECAFOOT administration is doing a lot to encourage youth development. The first-ever youth tournament was organized earlier this year, with the Northwest region emerging as champions. Still, more stringent measures have to be taken to ensure that Clubs pay great attention to this aspect.

MTN ELITE ONE: What We Learned From the Playoffs!

  • Football in Cameroon is a potential gold mine for businesses.

The game of football is by far the most popular sport in Cameroon, with millions of people watching games at all levels every week. The massive turnout at the stadiums is evidence of opportunities for businesses that can reach out to tens of thousands of customers in one go. 

MTN Cameroon, UBA, and Camtel have all taken the lead sponsorship of local football, but a seemingly endless pool of investment and sponsorship opportunities is still to be exploited. 

It will be nice to see more clubs engaging in deals with business enterprises, just like SODECOTON is doing with Coton Sport. Why not the proliferation of endorsement deals with the actors themselves-the players?

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