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Cameroon's players tired of coaching change

© Reuters 2002

By Brian Homewood

SIKASSO, Mali, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Cameroon's players, who have endured three coaching changes in the last year, say they want an end to the chopping and changing as they defend their African Nations Cup title and prepare for this year's World Cup.

The Indomitable Lions, who won all three games at the first round of the African Nations Cup without conceeding a goal, have failed to settle on a coach despite one of the best records in Africa over the last two years.

Players and officials admit that the latest incumbent, surprise choice Winfried Schafer from Germany, is by no means certain to be in the job when the World Cup starts in South Korea and Japan in June. One of Schaffer's assistants told Reuters that the coaching staff have a policy of not thinking beyond the end of the Nations Cup.

History goes against the German - Cameroon's coaches for the last two World Cups were both chosen on the eve of the tournament. Schaffer himself was emphatic after the win over Ivory Coast: "It's a long time to the World Cup. Today it's the African Cup."

But another change would damage the team as Cameroon attempt to go one better than 1990, when they became the only African team to reach a World Cup quarter-final, players say.

"In Cameroon, there is a lot of pressure, it's always like that, even when the team is playing well," said central defender Raymond Kalla, who plays his club football with Extramadura in Spain. "If the new coach stays, we will have more stability to prepare for the World Cup but first we have to help him by trying to win the African Nations Cup."

Players want Schaefer to stay even though they sorely miss Frenchman Pierre Lechantre, who led the Indomitable Lions to the Nations Cup title in Ghana and Nigeria two years ago.

"The players got on really well with Lechantre and he got on really well with the players. We stayed with him for over three years and we won the Nations Cup with him," said Patrick Suffo, who plays in the English first division with Sheffield United.

"It's not good to change all the time because you are always changing the system and stuff like that. I think we need stability today because we have a few young players in the squad, stability would be good for them."

The players have had to start all over again with a coach who has never previously worked outside Germany and still talks through an interpreter six months after taking over.

Schaffer spent 12 years in charge of Karlsruhe in the Bundesliga and has made few changes to the team built by Lechantre.

"The training is different and he speaks differently to the players but I think he has his own touch and his way of seeing football," said Suffo.

"But for the moment, nobody has got anything against him, everyone is happy with him, we hope he's going to stay for a while. The longer he stays, the better for us."

Cameroon football politics is blamed for the changes but players said they are not interested in what goes on in the boardroom.

"We don't bother with that because the political side is very dangerous, we are just trying to be focused on football," said Suffo.

"We stick up for our rights and make sure we get what we deserve, that's the only time we speak to them (the directors). Politics is a dangerous game."

Captain Rigobert Song added: "We know we've always had these problems but they are administrative and have nothing to do with the players. We just focus on the pitch, on doing the best job we can and on winning games."

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