Of course, we’d had at least one high-flying Cameroonian in the Ghanaian top-flight before – fans of a slightly older vintage would recall a certain Valentine Atem who passed through in the noughties and caused quite a stir on these shores.
Still, it’s undoubtedly the performances of Franck Etouga and Georges Mfegue for Kotoko, after joining the Porcupine Warriors from their homeland late last year, that have set new benchmarks for the Ghana Premier League’s Cameroonian imports.
Etouga ended the season as the league’s best striker, his 21 goals only narrowly missing the mark of 22 that stands as the division’s professional-era record and with which Ashgold winger Yaw Annor won the 2021/22 goalking prize. Mfegue, Etouga’s compatriot, assisted quite a few of those, and chipped in with eight of his own, summing up to 13 direct goal contributions.
As individuals, and with their powers combined, those two proved instrumental in powering Kotoko to a first league title in eight years. A move to Europe for the far more prolific Etouga – who, with all due respect to Mfegue, is more of a headline-grabber – is reportedly in the works, his days in Ghana almost certainly numbered.
Would he be missed?
Well, most definitely, considering how brilliantly he’s set alight our football, but, thanks largely to Etouga’s excellence, there’d be no shortage of Cameroonian talent in the league when next season kicks off – suddenly, it seems, they’re all the rage.
Kotoko have already announced the capture of two new Cameroonians, goalkeeper Moise Pouaty and defender Thomas Pele, as they prepare for their CAF Champions League campaign and domestic title defence.
Their archrivals Accra Hearts of Oak, who are in the CAF Confederation Cup, have also unveiled a brand new striker from Cameroon, Junior Kaaba; five days later, the arrival was confirmed of another forward, Yassan Ouatching, who represents the Central African Republic (CAR) at international level… but is Cameroonian by birth.
Bechem United, runners-up to Hearts in last season’s FA Cup final, have brought in two of their own: Franck Priso and Gabriel Yapy.
It’s a rather interesting and refreshing break from the norm, with Ghanaian clubs having typically limited their pursuit of foreign players to the West African sub-region.
Cameroon, lying closer to the heart of the continent, hasn’t really been on the radar, but the exploits of Etouga (and, to a lesser extent, Mfegue) may have prompted a revision of that ECOWAS-centric recruitment ‘policy’.
But the incoming players do have their reasons, too.
It took only seven months, after he moved to Ghana, for Etouga to receive a maiden call-up to the Cameroon senior national team, ahead of June’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
He didn’t make the final cut, but it was quite something that, on a provisional list of 34 players, the 20-year-old was only one of two plying their trade in Africa to feature (the other, goalkeeper Simon Omossola, plays in DR Congo for AS Vita).
Clearly, Rigobert Song, the Indomitable Lions’ head coach, has an eye on Ghanaian football and wouldn’t hesitate to consider any Cameroonian players here who’d impress as much as Etouga has.
In a FIFA World Cup year, the possibilities are exciting, even if rather improbable. More realistically, though, Etouga has shown the way in yet another direction: that, via Ghana, there could be a route to Europe for compatriots of his who are as talented and bold enough to make the move.
And, surely, all of this would put Cameroonian player agents on red alert about the market opening up widely and rapidly just four countries to their right.
It’s a trend that, should it pay off, could be a win-win for all involved. Granted, there are no guarantees. Not all these players would be able to make the sort of impact Etouga has, and not every club would recoup their investment.
Quite possibly, if there aren’t enough success stories, it could all go out of vogue very soon. But even if this eventually proves to be little more than a fad, it’s worth enjoying while it lasts.