The Indomitable Lions have a new coach: on Tuesday April 2, Belgian Marc Brys, 61, was appointed to succeed Cameroonian Rigobert Song, whose two-year contract ended on February 29. The Flemish technician, born in Antwerp, will have his first experience in Africa. He will be notably assisted by two former Cameroonian internationals, François Omam-Biyik and Alioum Boukar. A former defender who played in the amateur championship, he coached mainly in Belgium (Beerschot Antwerp, FC Mechelen, Sint-Truiden), in the Netherlands (FC Den Bosch, FC Eindhoven) and in Saudi Arabia. Free since his departure from Louvain in October 2023, he applied for the post of coach of Ghana.

But it is less the personality of the new Lions coach than the behind the scenes of his appointment which is causing controversy in Cameroon. The Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot), chaired by Samuel Eto’o, did not appreciate hearing the news on the CRTV television news, when reading a press release signed by the Minister of Sports, Narcisse Mouelle Kombi. Expressing “its astonishment at this act contrary to the decree of September 2014 relating to the organization and operation of the national selections”, the body declared that it “intends to shed light on this regrettable situation”. But how much room for maneuver does she really have?

The arrival of Marc Brys at the head of the Indomitable Lions was validated by Paul Biya himself, the President of the Republic. On February 10, the Head of State, in power for forty-one years, indicated in his speech to youth that he had given firm instructions to the Minister of Sports regarding the management of national selections. “This clearly meant that the appointment of Rigobert Song’s successor would be the business of Paul Biya, a few members of his close entourage and Narcisse Mouelle Kombi. Samuel Eto’o would not really have a say, summarizes, on condition of anonymity, a former member of Fecafoot. For him, the appointment of Marc Brys and the way in which it was announced are a real humiliation. »

This takeover of the management of the A selection by the State did not, however, prevent Samuel Eto’o from making contact with several technicians, a few days after the elimination of Cameroon in the round of 16 of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 in Ivory Coast by Nigeria (0-2).

“You have to be reasonable.”

The manager had notably approached the Belgian Tom Saintfiet, the former coach of the Gambia, who finally signed up with the Philippines, the Italian Fabio Cannavaro and especially the Frenchman Hervé Renard, coach of the French women’s team, under contract until August 31. The two men, who know and like each other, met in Abidjan during the CAN, and discussions continued during frequent telephone conversations.

The name of Hervé Renard, who is also being courted by Nigeria and South Korea, appeared on the “short list” drawn up by the Minister of Sports and his colleagues responsible for the matter. “There were around twenty applications, three were selected, including those of Renard and Brys. The two priorities were to appoint an experienced and financially affordable coach. The State covers his salary and that of his technical staff, and in the current economic context, it is appropriate to be reasonable,” intervenes a member of the sports ministry. Samuel Eto’o long supported the candidacy of the French technician, until the Cameroonian state and Marc Brys reached a verbal agreement at the end of March, before the officialization on Tuesday.

Hervé Renard, who was African champion in 2012 with Zambia and in 2015 with Ivory Coast, was the number one sporting choice. He was interviewed, but the discussions were unsuccessful due to his salary demands. In addition, the Savoyard, linked to the French Football Federation, would not have been available before September 1, for the start of qualifying for the 2025 African Cup of Nations in Morocco.

Marc Brys, whose contract duration has not been specified, will receive, according to information from Le Monde, a salary significantly lower than that of his predecessor, who earned 39,000 euros per month. The new coach of the Indomitable Lions will make his official debut in June during the 3rd and 4th days of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. Cameroon, which ranks first in Group D with four points, will host Cape Town Green before traveling to Luanda to face Angola.