In 2016, PWD Bamenda, a soccer club in the besieged northern region of Cameroon, achieved promotion to the country's national division in two championships known as Elite Two.
That same year, protests erupted in the northwest and southwest regions, paralyzing soccer activities in the two English-speaking regions. The protesters' requests included using English as the official language in English-speaking courts and schools and equal distribution of financial resources.
These protests turned violent, leading to a bloody conflict that has been going on for almost four years between largely French-speaking government forces and English-speaking separatist militias.
For its part, PWD Bamenda achieved promotion in the national division one, Elite One, and was crowned champion of a season interrupted by the coronavirus, when there were few games left.
The club has stood the test of time — survived threats related to the coronavirus and the ongoing separatist conflict — to reach the highest levels.
At the start of the just-finished soccer season, club president Abunde Pascal told CBS Radio that he would like the team to play a crucial role in the championship, after getting rid of relegation the previous season.
“This season's goals have not been adequately defined yet, but we believe we should have a key role in the championship this season. We don't want to be in that relegation battle we were in last season, ”said the president of the Abunde club in October 2019.
PWD Bamenda had barely survived the relegation of the previous season, when its former coach, Augustin Choupo, was kidnapped by suspected Anglophone separatists and faced repeated threats during matches in Bamenda, the regional headquarters of the northwestern region.
“There were persistent negotiations with the security forces to protect the team's playing field,” said Kouamo Arnold, a Bamenda reporter, who reports on the club in dialogue with Global Voices on May 16, 2020. “The team has francophone players , so most of them were afraid of kidnappings being in the northwest because former coach Augustin Choupo was kidnapped. “
The team suffered a series of defeats in the opening stage of the 2020 season and almost passed the relegation zone, but managed to get up before the end of the season – it scored 29 points and finished second.
“Many criticized the play formation (of new coach David) Pagou at 3-5-2. But he took a risk, unlike the former coach's philosophy and began to reap fruit, ”said Kouamo.
PWD advanced to second place with 40 points after beating legendary club Tonnere Kalara 1-0 on a 24-date schedule. The club had lost points in a few games in the first part of the second phase in its initial search to avoid relegation.
“The spirit of the championship never really happened to the club,” Cameroonian soccer writer Giovanni Wanneh told Global Voices. According to Giovanni, the decisive moment of the PWD came on the 28th day of the competition, when they achieved a decisive victory to advance to the first place in the league.
“Beating Union Sportive of Douala made the team and fans believe they could win the league. The fans started pushing, “said Wanneh.
The victory brought the team to first place in the Elite One table with 47 points, one point less than the Cameroonian giant Coton Sport, who sadly tied with its contenders. A victory would have brought Coton Sport to first place, but things stayed as they were and the league was suspended in March by the coronavirus.
Cameroon has registered high rates of coronavirus patients during this period in the region.
In the end, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) that administers the league ended the championship and declared PWD the winner when the championship had six days left.
The team, founded 58 years ago in South Cameroon, will now represent Cameroon in the next season of the Cameroon Champions League in what will be their first appearance.
“We are very happy because we play in this part of the country (northwest) and it is not easy, with the challenges you know,” PWD President Abunde Pascal told Global Voices on May 16.
Journalist Afeseh Apong, who traveled with the team for matches throughout the season, agrees.
“We had a game at Bamenda, and Dragon Yaoundé – the contender – entered the court long before us. They were detained at the entrance to the court by alleged separatist fighters. The players were traumatized and never wanted to continue the match. We need additional effort to convince them to play, ”he told Global Voices on May 17.
“With all these negative factors, I think PWD broke all the odds.”