The Douala Academy is nurturing Cameroon’s next generation of indomitable lions

Brasseries Football School in Cameroon has nurtured some of Africa’s biggest players since starting operations in 1989. The eminent academy has sent footballers to some of the world’s top clubs, as well as to Cameroon’s national team, The Indomitable Lions. Jowharvisited its training ground in Douala.

Vincent Aboubakar, Clinton Njie, Ignatius Ganogo: The trio that plays for Cameroon’s “Indomitable Lions” in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) are all three products from Brasseries Football School, one of the most prominent football academies in Africa.

The academy is located in Douala, Cameroon’s commercial hub and largest city. Protected from the hustle and bustle of Douala’s monster traffic jams by walls painted yellow and red, aspiring footballers can take advantage of this little oasis to focus on their dream: to become professional players like their famous predecessor Samuel Eto’o or Rigobert Song.

“I know I can get my chance”

“The school is a fantastic training center here in Cameroon. Fantastic players have gone through here, I know I can get my chance,” David Mimbang, a 14-year-old trainee, told FRANCE 24. The young defensive midfielder, in his third year of training at Brasseries Football School, dreams of joining the club in Montpellier in the south of France, as the Cameroonian football legend Roger Milla did in the late 1980s.

David Mimbang trains at Brasseries Football School in Douala. © Pierre René-Worms, France 24 The Academy was founded in 1989 as part of a philanthropic program for young people by Brasseries du Cameroun, a subsidiary of the French brewery and beverage giant Castel. Children from all over Cameroon dream of being among the 11 trainees selected each year for the school’s six-year course.

The academy adopted a sports and study program in 2008, which houses interns on site in three dormitories equipped with mosquito nets for each age category: U14, U16 and U18. The president of the Brasseries Football School, Jacques Elimbi, and its director general, Jean Flaubert Nono, are behind the development of this sports and study program.

Education in “Africa Brazil”

“Cameroon is Africa’s Brazil. It is a country with many talented players, but without a proper training system. This academy has made this possible by hiring players who have played in big clubs, while strengthening Cameroon’s national football team,” Elimbi told FRANCE 24. “We nurture the next generation.”

The Brasseries Football School course includes academic studies to ensure that trainees receive an education in addition to their football training.

Jacques Elimbi, president of Cameroon’s Brasseries Football Club. “We are raising the next generation,” he says. © Pierre René-Worms, France 24 “Obviously we teach football by helping young people develop their talents, but at the same time we explain that not everyone will become a professional. So we must also teach them how to become men in order to be integrated into “That’s why we insist on study, discipline and moral ethics,” said Elimbi. “We try to get them to keep their feet on the ground.”

Trainees go through an intensive, military-like course. At dawn, they begin the day by attending lessons outside the academy’s grounds. They return in the afternoon, after a nap, for their football training. Their day ends with additional supervision, to ensure that academic studies remain a priority.

– It was difficult to keep up in the beginning. We get up early and do bodybuilding or work out in the morning. But it ends with us getting used to it, Mimbang said. “If you want something, you have to be ready to make sacrifices. But that’s what we like to do. So we have to train every day.”

“Not a normal life”

Nono, the head of the academy, admits that the trainees, between 12 and 18 years old, “do not live a normal life for their age”. The 53-year-old, who comes from the French city of Lyon, has a long career in football management. He is an authority figure whose words always weigh heavily in academia.

Even though he does not train himself, Nono always keeps track of the training. On the day that Jowharvisited, young football players from the U14 and U16 sections each occupied half the pitch. “More intensity!”, One of the coaches shouted while the coaches practiced dribbling.

Jean Flaubert Nono keeps an eye on a training session at Cameroon’s Brasseries Football School. © Pierre René-Worms, France 24 U14’s coach is an alumnus of Brasseries Football School who never succeeded as a professional player.

“I help train newcomers. I get them to work on their coordination, their balance. I know my failures, I try to help them avoid my mistakes,” Michel Platini Weladji told FRANCE 24. “In my time were we external “Now interns are housed and fed at the academy. I repeat to them that it is a possibility “, adds the coach, whose first name is a tribute to a French football legend in the 1980s.

Coach Michel Platini Weladji during a training session at Brasseries Football School. © Pierre René-Worms, France 24 A gifted generation

Aspiring football players are training in a field surrounded by huge posters of the stars who passed Brasseries Football School. The members of Cameroon’s national team that won CAN 2000, 2002 and 2017 stare down at the trainees practicing dribbling on the lawn.

“When we see these pictures, it motivates us. We tell ourselves that our dream is possible,” said Mimbang, who dreams of joining the Indomitable Lions to play in the World Cup and CAN.

Prestigious alumni return regularly to the academy’s training ground in Douala to share their insights with trainees. “When they come back, it’s like a family reunion,” said Nono, the school’s director general.

Aspiring football players are training in a field surrounded by huge posters of the stars who passed Brasseries Football School. © Pierre René-Worms, France 24 Brasseries Football School faces several challenges, including organizing tournaments against other young players. With minimal logistical support from the Cameroon Football Federation, it is up to the academy to plan regular matches against teams from other football schools. Three tournaments organized by Brasseries du Cameroun allow trainees to train in real conditions.

“At the Limbé tournament that we organized in December, we won for the first time in all three categories U14, U16 and U18. Each time we came out on top against 16 other teams,” says Nono proudly. serious (…) They are talented and the succession is sure. ”

Competition for new talent

Another challenge that the academy faces is the intensifying competition to discover and attract young talent. Elimbi, the school’s chairman, criticizes other education centers, which he says are “only interested in money”.

Young interns at Brasseries Football School. © Pierre René-Worms, France 24 The Academy relies on a nationwide tournament organized by the Brasseries du Cameroun every year during the major holiday break. The top 100 will take part in the final in the capital Yaounde, with only 11 players finally making it to the track.

The end of the program can also be quite stressful for trainees as the school does not have privileged relationships or agreements with professional football clubs.

“I hope I will succeed in getting a contract in Europe. That’s what I’m waiting for now. I’m ready to become a professional,” Loïc Dieudonné Ntoko, a 17-year trainee in his final year, told FRANCE 24 “My dream is to play for PSG. “

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