In 1994 Bisong Makia, it would be recalled, served as Assistant Team Manager of Golden Soap Football Club in Kumba. He has also managed o football clubs such like Prisons Social Club of Buea, Botafogo AFC of Buea, Continental FC, Mount Cameroon FC and Tiko United.
His appointment has been applauded by football lovers who hope that this stringent soccer manager would now stop the old habit of sending southwest regional representatives at national competitions late.
In an exclusive interview with Smart Njikang Gabriel (University of Buea Journalism Student on internship with The Recorder), Bisong Makia talks about his life, vision for football in the region and more.Excerpts:
As the new Administrator of Southwest Fecafoot, I think you are occupying a tough office; looking at the stakes surrounding FECAFOOT, What is your relationship with those you work closely with?
|Thomas Bissong Makia|
Thomas Bisong Makia: I would say I have a very cordial relationship with all my collaborators .It should be noted that I have been in football management for more than twenty years; I have managed more than nine football clubs both at the regional and national levels. It may also interest you to know that I did manage Tiko United in 2009 when we emerged champions, and I also managed Mt Cameroon football club of Buea and we were ranked third and we went continental- just to name a few. So, I am used to all those with whom I work with today; most of them are my juniors and a few of them I have worked with. Managing football activities is easier to me, because it is what I have been doing most of my adult life.
How did you find yourself in football?
Thomas Bisong Makia :It’s a very long story. It started like a joke, when I was young I developed much interest in the game and I happened to be schooling at the Bilingual Grammar School-Molyko,Buea, where I had as a junior Lade Fayiez who was the son of Fayiez Olabi -a football manager based in Kumba at the time. So because of him I became acquainted to his father the late Fayiez Olabi and so I usually went to Kumba for holidays together with him. From there, I became interested in football administration;, he strongly encouraged me and that was how I became the Assistant Manager of Golden Soap in 1994. When I returned to Buea, I became the Team Manager of Prisons FC Buea; from there I managed Continental Football Club;I managed Botafogo FC. I later became Team Manager for Mt. Cameroon Jr, Team Manager of Mt. Cameroon Sr ;Team Manager of Tiko United.
I also worked with noted football promoter and lover the late. Henry Njalla Quan; I used to be in charge of his recruitment and together we started the Academy, located in Bimbia. I also worked with Acadia Sport. In fact, I think I have done my best to promote football in the southwest region.
I think this is an office you master so well because you’ve served as Interim Secretary-General of Southwest Regional League of FECAFOOT; now you are the Administrative Agent, controlling football in the region. What is your job as Administrative Agent and how does your daily schedule like?
Thomas Bisong Makia:The function of an administrative agent depends on the situation on the ground. The current situation permits me to work more than what I am supposed to do. For instance, now that all the administrative organs of the Federation have been suspended, I work as the sole person in charge of football in the region:I organize championship and run the day-to-day activities of the league; when I come to the office I receive correspondences and instructions from the National Bureau and execute them; I organize training seminars for referees, match commissioners and I also liaise between administration and the offices of the Governor, Senior Divisional Officer and the Divisional Officer. In fact anything that concerns football or FECAFOOT in the region is under me for the time being.
Would you say you are succeeding this far?
Thomas Bisong Makia:I earlier told you that I am one of the main actors of the game in the region, so I know the problems of football in the region. One of such was the organization of the game; people didn’t play when they were supposed to play, no regular fixtures. But for the few months I have been here, I have tried to re-organise the corps of referees; today I now bring elite referees to improve the ability of the regional referees. When elite referees referee matches the regional referees learn from them; today we now have regular fixtures and at the end of the matches I communicate those results to journalists via text messages. I should say things are improving and will continue to improve with my administration.
Are you faced with challenges since your appointment as SW FECAFOOT Administrator?
Thomas Bisong Makia: Challenges? There is the issue of time constraint, because managing football alone in this region is not easy. I cannot be everywhere at the same time; but thank GOD I have trusted friends to whom I delegate power, who help coordinate football activities at divisional level and they help me to do scheduling. For now, I have no major problem.
Your mandate will certainly end some day. What legacy would you like to leave for posterity?
Thomas Bisong Makia:The first thing is to wipe out is the bad idea that most people have about the regional league. They called it the devil because of organizational lapses; but as at now I am happy from the feedback I get from the field. I would like to have a properly organized league in which there are good referees. An innovation I brought already is the introduction of a fourth official, which has never happened before. I have also fought for the increase of the pay package of referees per match, which has gone up from 5000 francs to 20,000 francs. I want to continue fighting for referees’ wellbeing, because if they are happy, corruption will not be part of the game. I also wish to improve on football, on general in the region. The more time I spend in this office, so too will positive changes come. My greatest joy will be to see the second phase of the regional championship start and end successful and for us to have the best club to represent the region’s interest at the tournament to gain promotion into league II next football season.
A worrying problem with football in the Southwest region is the lack of supporters on the pitch during matches on match days. What do you think is responsible for the timid presence of spectators?
Thomas Bisong Makia:That is a very big problem here in Buea, and the first thing is the economic situation that we find ourselves in this country; because most of those people that you see in the field are traders, so when the economy is not good its affects them principally. The second point is the scheduling of matches. We play at times at mid day, majority of those who come to the stadium are the traders. At such time they are still busy doing business. If we had good stadia, where we could play matches say at 7pm, there is not doubt that the turn out of spectators would very impressive. Lack of publicity is a cause for concern, but I intend to make it a priority now, because communication is very important in football.
What are you doing to increase the number of spectators during matches so that football lovers in the region can fill the stadia as they did years back during derby pitting Prisons Social Club of Buea and Victoria United (OPOPO)?
Thomas Bisong Makia:Every day, I try to look for ways to improve on the game. If I had the opportunity to organize the second round of the championship and the mini interpools, it would be an unforgettable event in the minds of the football lovers in the region.
I have also discovered that we can’t have sponsors because our stadia are empty; for us to have sponsors we have to make the game a popular event. So the organisation of an event requires much to be done. For instance, I have discovered that when a sponsor comes to the stadium, he wishes to meet people so he could advertise his product and or service; I have decided to be inviting people to the stadium. So if we have a match, I will give out invitations to all of the players of the two teams and invite some personalities. So if we have at least a hundred and fifty or two hundred spectators in a stadium on each match day, keeping aside those who pay, we will have at least an audience that a sponsor can advertise their product\service. So, these are some of the things I am trying to do to make sponsors get interested in the game in our region.
This far, there has been a tug of war between FECAFOOT and the Appeals Commission of the National Olympic Committee on the statutes of the football governing body in Cameroon. Many think the fight put up by Abdouraman Hamadou is pushing the work of the Normalisation Committee backward. As an administrator of FECAFOOT in the region, what is your reaction?
Thomas Bisong Makia:I pray that people should keep their differences aside and think about the game. And now for the love of the game, we should forget about everything and let football triumph. I think we should try as much as possible for this matter to come to an end so that we can move ahead.
How is your relationship with Senator Charles Mbella Moki, former President of the Southwest Regional league of FECAFOOT?
Thomas Bisong Makia:It is a healthy relationship. I relate with him very well on matters of football.
I equally relate well with other football stakeholders in the region. I even worked with Barrister Agbor Mballa, who challenged Senator Moki for the post of president of Southwest Fecafoot and lost. I work with club presidents who are the main actors and referees. Every body is my friend but it depends on the level of friendship.
It is said you were kind of instrument in the last regional FECAFOOT elections that saw Senator Charles Mbella Moki reelected as President of Southwest FECAFOOT. What is your reaction to that?
Thomas Bisong Makia:Certainly. At that time I was appointed the interim Secretary General of FECAFOOT southwest, now I am the administrative agent of FECAFOOT, the roles are different. Now I am a worker of FECAFOOT, so I serve everybody equally.
So, are you implying that as a worker of FECAFOOT you won’t support anybody as we look up to regional presidential elections?
Thomas Bisong Makia:You need to understand that there is an independent electoral body which is in charge of elections and I have little or nothing to do with the elections.
Do you have any special message for soccer lovers in the region?
Thomas Bisong Makia:I would like to call on them to join forces with me, so together we can improve and lift football to higher heights in this part of the country. Football is a team sport and there is a place for everybody in the game. In football, we have the referees, match delegates, the players, coordinator and the spectators, so football is a group game and a team sport. so there is a place for everybody. So I plead with all and sundry to put aside their differences and let’s forge ahead with the improvement of the game of football in this region.