The first group of players and coaches arrived in the parking lot at the Blue Pearl Hotel at Mile 4 – Nkwen on the morning of Thursday, August 6th. The coach and team, which consisted of five players selected to represent their club, Brescia F.C. and the whole city of Kumba, made the journey via public transportation without any troubles, aside from a bumpy ride and police control points which forced occupants off the bus for identification checks. “Bamenda by Night”, as the locals call it, is an overnight bus ride taking more than 10 hours to travel 400 kilometers on both paved and unpaved roads through the Cameroonian jungle of the Southwest and into the grasslands of the Northwest Region. The weary travelers had only enough energy for a breakfast of tea and bread before they retired to their hotel rooms for some rest. They had finally arrived in Bamenda, the host city of the 2015 Super Cup to Develop Young Leaders, organized by the Cameroon Football Development Program (CameroonFDP) and supported by FIFA Football for Hope and the African Diaspora, namely members of the Cameroonian community in Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.
Soon came the team from football powerhouse, Mamfe (home of the Indomitable Lioness’ Head Coach, Ngachu Enow), followed by a young group of players from Ndom, a small rural village in the Bakossi region. The three teams representing their communities in Southwest Region of Cameroon had arrived. Next, the boys of John Nsame Foundation, from Ndu, a village a few hours outside of Bamenda joined their peers at the three-star hotel ahead of the next day’s competition. In all, four teams would travel to the Super Cup and be joined the following day by two teams from the host city. After a warm welcome from the CameroonFDP team and a family-style dinner in the home of the co-founder, Peter Ngwane, players returned to their rooms for a good night’s sleep before the big day.
The educational component of the 2015 Super Cup highlighted three topics: Leadership, Be a Role Model, and Community Service. These three areas of focus were included both on the football pitch and in the workshops which continued at the hotel later in the evening. CameroonFDP’s innovative +7 points system ensured that players and coaches incorporated the educational aspects of the Super Cup theme throughout the match play. With all of the exciting activities planned, this would be an experience that all participants would never forget.
The morning of Friday, August 7th began bright and early with the crow of the rooster and the rising sun. After a light breakfast, everyone headed to the field. While the CameroonFDP staff and some local volunteers began arranging the playing grounds and marking the fields, six (6) teams registered their coaches and players for the competition, and began to size up their opponents before the group stage of the competition. The teams were separated into two groups:
Co-founders Peter Ngwane [Cameroon] and Justin Forzano [Pittsburgh] were on site to give a great welcome and words of encouragement to all of the participants, who were reminded that this event was a great achievement and represented the next level of sport for development in Cameroon. Players were encouraged to return home to their team to share what they had learned from this experience and lead their peers in a community service project so that others in their community would also see the power of sport to create positive impact in the society. After cheers from all on the field to show their excitement, it was time for kick off!
With the group stage came a downpour of rain. Despite the muddy playing grounds, four teams emerged to enter the semi finals: Brescia F.C. and Formation Heskey from Group A and SHAFUSA and Bastions F.C. from Group B. The two teams from Bamenda proved to be worthy contenders, but the two clubs involved with CameroonFDP the longest, Brescia F.C., of Kumba, and SHAFUSA, of Mamfe, emerged victorious to meet in the finals.
Both teams stood in line in front of the honorable delegation from the Northwest Region who gathered under the canopy to watch the final match. This was their opportunity to showcase what they had learned from their coaches earlier about the theme of the Super Cup. Spectators listened as players read ‘motivational statements’ about the importance of being a good role model; how community service can improve a neighborhood; and how as footballers specially selected to participate in this event, they are leaders. Many in the audience listened and reflected on the meaning of the Super Cup. It was clear to all that this was about more than the game.
Players shook hands with one another, coaches, and referees before heading out to the pitch for the championship. After 30 minutes of play, Brescia F.C. scored two goals and raised the trophy in jubilation. They had won the Super Cup!
A session on leadership followed, facilitated by partners Eddy Hope Foundation, a group of volunteers who are striving to make lives better for vulnerable populations in Cameroon. The leadership worship had youth shouting empowering statements like “I am a Leader.” and “I can change my community.” After some engaging activities and video presentations, teams separated into small groups for brainstorming sessions about the community services projects to be conducted in the coming weeks after they returned home from the Super Cup.
All of the teams were up early the next morning to pack their bags and head out to the bus park. Players said goodbye to their new friends while coaches exchanged contact information to stay connected to their new colleagues. Every participant said a gracious word of thanks to the CameroonFDP staff before piling into taxis and heading out. The Super Cup experience – building up over a few months earlier in 2015 and culminating in this 2-day event had gone on without a hitch. Despite being sad that it was over, everyone was excited about the prospective future of sport for development in Cameroon. The closing of this epic event is not the end; the movement is only beginning.
2015 Super Cup in Cameroon was Epic!