No other team dominated the Cameroonian club scene in the 1970s and 1980s like Canon de Yaounde. The capital outfit were torchbearers for an entire continent at the time, playing a style of football so entertaining they were nicknamed the 'Brazilians of Africa'.
Since then, Canon’s star has faded, despite their most recent title in 2002, but the glow of greatness and the passion at the heart of the club have never disappeared.
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Birth of an institution
To mark a French celebration on 11 November 1930, the ruling governor requested a football match be held in Yaounde, but with games due in Douala at the same time, Etoile Indigene were the only team present in the country’s political capital. The French authorities instructed the head of the Nyong-et-Sanaga region to create another, and the club formed as a result were named Canon de Yaounde.
According to legend, during heated discussions over what to call the new side, senior figure Mvogo Melingui asked for the name of the gun that had helped rout German troops in Yaounde in 1916, remembering only that it made the clicking sound 'Kpa', followed by a 'Kum' as it fired. Those present answered 'Canon'.
The first players to mark the history of the club were Zing Martin Omgba, Francis Belinga, Joseph Amougou, Rene Ndong, Etienne Belinga, Jacques Bouli and Gabriel Abega, and Kpa-Kum won their first trophy in 1957, clinching the second edition of the Cameroonian Cup. Three years later, they fell 2-1 to Lions de Yaounde in the final.
After independence in 1960, the Cameroon Football Association was formed and joined CAF. That was also the year of the first national championship and Canon quickly found themselves out of their depth, watching the likes of Oryx Douala, Caiman Douala, Diamant Yaounde and Union Douala claim the title between 1961 and 1969. Canon even suffered a brief spell in the second tier before a second Cameroonian Cup triumph in 1967 heralded the start of an exciting new era.
The making of a legend
Kpa-Kum secured their first league title in 1970 and the following year they won their first ever continental honour, the African Cup of Champion Clubs. By 1973 and the club’s third Cameroonian Cup, which they claimed by sweeping aside Diamant 5-2, they were on the road to consistent success.
In each of the years leading up to 1980, Canon were either fully involved in the championship race or made their way through to the domestic cup final. On the continental stage, the Nkolndongo neighbourhood outfit added to their list of honours in three successive seasons between 1978 and 1980, winning the African Cup of Champion Clubs twice (1978 and 1980) as well as the African Cup Winners' Cup (1979).
The club rapidly became one of Africa’s most dominant forces, and Canon players formed the backbone of the Cameroon team that impressed at the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™ and won the CAF African Cup of Nations in Côte d'Ivoire two years later. Of that side, Gregoire Mbida, Onguene Manga and Theophile Abega stood out for their goalscoring instincts, powerful finishing and technique, while Emmanuel Kunde’s shooting brought joy to supporters and agile goalkeeper Thomas Nkono was noted for the distance of his kicks, which fans dubbed 'long-haul deliveries'.
Despite a number of departures, Canon continued to ride high in the 1980s, thanks to the emergence of exciting new generations of talent, led by the likes of Marc-Vivien Foe, Jacques Songo'o, Louis-Paul Mfede, Francois Omam-Biyick and Pierre Wome.
The club fell from the forefront in the following decade but still maintained a competitive level, taking the league title in 1991 and three national cups. In 2000, Canon hit the headlines again by reaching the African Cup Winners' Cup final, where they lost to Zamalek, but since adding their last piece of silverware in 2002, they have dropped further and further from view. Indeed, Cotonsport Garoua now enjoy the reputation of being the supreme presence in Cameroonian football.
Canon de Yaounde are regularly beset by problems of stewardship. On 8 August 2009, the club President resigned for the first time in 20 years, provoking a crisis meeting at which Kpa-Kum’s board set up a transitional body charged with preparing the team for the 2009/10 season. The side have not fared with distinction on the pitch so far, currently lying ninth with a record of nine wins, seven draws and ten defeats.
Stade Ahmadou-Ahidjo is an omnisports arena located at the heart of the Mfandena neighbourhood in the east of Yaounde. It was built in February 1972 for the eighth edition of the African Cup of Nations and underwent further work in 2007, when its capacity was increased to 38,509 seated places. Aside from Canon matches, it hosts the Cameroonian national side, and it was in this stadium that Roger Milla played a memorable testimonial match in 1988.