Clarence Seedorf to take the lead in difficult challenge with Cameroon
Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert were among their generation’s finest. The Dutchmen wreaked havoc on opposition defences. Those golden days are long gone but the duo have the chance to reignite their memories in Cameroon’s dugout.
The Federation of Cameroon Football (Fecafoot) took an unlikely path with its recent appointment. The Netherlands isn’t a favourite stop for the West African nation. Being a former French Colony, France was the hunting ground each time a new Lion King was required. The Indomitable Lions enjoyed tremendous success with their French mercenaries, ten in all.
Arie Haan is the only other Dutchman to work with the five-time African champions. He resigned less than six months into a two-year contract citing interference from the FA. Ironically, that was Seedorf’s life-span in his previous three jobs at AC Milan, Chinese club Shenzhen and Deportivo La Coruna.
Hugo Broos shocked the continent by winning the African Cup of Nations last year with a vastly inexperienced side. He couldn't ride his luck to the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifiers, however. The Indomitable Lions underwhelmed in both. As always, FeCaFoot was not patient.
Several managers were linked to replace the Belgian, mostly nomadic pensioners with their best days behind. Former England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, topped the list. Perhaps not surprisingly, Fecafoot settled for inexperienced Dutch pair - Seedorf and Kluivert. Eriksson would have done his homework and, beyond demanding a significant salary, would have brooked no meddling. According to Dieudonne Happi, the president of Cameroon’s normalisation committee, the decision was based on the chosen pair's successful playing careers.
Their formidable (past) careers as professional players who seduced the whole world gives them a great experience of high-level football. They are indeed ranked in the Fifa 100 list among the 125 greatest living players in history, established by Pelé.
No doubt, the pair enjoyed blistering stints on the pitch. Team-mates with both Ajax and l'Oranje, they garnered a combined 165 caps, winning the Champions League together in 1995. While Kluivert added just one extra continental honour, Seedorf picked up three more at Real Madrid and AC Milan. Playing and coaching are different disciplines, however. Zinedine Zidane is the rare superstar player who proved a great coach, as well.
Seedorf and Kluivert face a tough task in Yaounde. The immediate plan is to equip the reigning champions for the 2019 AFCON on home soil. Apparently, Seedorf's larger collection of winners medals has impressed FeCaFoot, who have named him head coach and Kluivert an associate. The 42-year-old has at least one year to get the Lions roaring again. Anything other than a sixth trophy would be termed failure.
Cameroonian football is in transition. There aren't too many big-name players at the moment. The famous golden generation who dominated the continent in the early 2000s have all left the pride. The few who remain active, most notably Samuel Eto'o, aren’t willing to represent their country.
Seedorf must establish another era with youngsters. Ostende and Ajax goalkeepers Fabrice Ondoa and Andre Onana are 22. Fulham new boy, André-Frank Anguissa is in the same age bracket. So is pacey forward Christian Bassogog. These players could form the spine of Seedorf's new-look Lions.
Communication is key and Seedorf is fluent in five different languages. Ironically, French isn’t one. He must learn quickly if he is to connect with his squad. Most expatriate tacticians prefer to work from abroad. Seedorf may need to buck that trend.
There's another common thread in Cameroon. Managers are too frequently sacked less than a year into their contracts. Only German Volker Finke crossed the 12-month mark among the last 10 appointments. Seedorf is accustomed to short stints as boss but if the Indomitable Lions are to be kings again, that trend must be broken.