Cameroon on the map

Posted on | July 4, 2016 | Category: News, Newsletter

“All is worthwhile if the soul is not small”. Mouna Nouma should be thinking about these words of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa when he decided to put his small country, Cameroon, on the Orienteering map. On 11th May he joined the World Orienteering Day celebrations, and he tells us now how it went.

13236089_10204893873861549_316133730_nThe date 11th May 2016 was truly special. The interest shown by schools, clubs and institutions in celebrating World Orienteering Day extended to 81 countries and territories around the world; pursuit of the same vision was shared by both the ‘super-powers’ and those countries where the development of the sport is still embryonic. Cameroon is an example of the latter, and Orienteering has a tiny profile in a country where the most popular sport is – by far – football. But Cameroonian orienteers still added 59 units to a world participant number that exceeded 250,000.

The person responsible for the birth and development of Orienteering in Cameroon, Mouna Nouma, is our guide. But let him introduce himself. “My name is Noukeu Marjolain; Mouna Nouma is an abbreviation. I had my primary and secondary education, and then got my BA in 2004, in Mbanga, a town 60 km north of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. Then I moved to Yaoundé and the university where I got my Masters Degree in Biochemistry in 2011. In 2008 I became familiar with IT tools in the IT Pilot Centre in Yaoundé”, he says.

First steps
Mouna Nouma is passionate about Orienteering. At High School he played Table Tennis, which also is a little-known sport in Cameroon, but in his head there always dwelt a particular taste for discovering new and challenging sports. So it was in an almost natural way that he started looking for a discipline that was totally unknown to the public in general, and one that could be challenging enough from an intellectual point of view. “That’s how I discovered Orienteering, through the Sports’ Yearbook”, Nouma remembers. “I got interested when I realised that this discipline matched my wishes, being quite original in the way it combines mental and physical skills”, he says, adding an important detail: “And it’s virtually unknown in Africa and in my country.”

13236079_10204893867701395_1094667209_nWhat attracts Nouma the most in Orienteering “is the peculiarity of having fun when you’re teaching it. Thus I tried to learn more and more”, he says. In 2012 Mouna Nouma decided to introduce Orienteering in Cameroon, starting by contacting the IOF. “I was in touch with Barbro Rönnberg, Secretary General at the time, and she told me what to do to become an IOF member. So I followed the administrative procedures necessary for national recognition, leading to our acceptance as a member of IOF in July 2013”, Mouna remembers.

“We’ll be a great Orienteering nation in ten years”
“I have found myself completely caught up by Orienteering, and we couldn’t miss an opportunity like this”; that’s the reason why Mouna Nouma decided to join the big day. Being the first edition, Cameroon had to be present. The Cameroon World Orienteering Day was carried out in excellent conditions, and a good number of people came along. “I think we have achieved our goal. We can only rejoice and enjoy the result of our efforts to make the event a reality”, he states, with brightness in his eyes.

Things aren’t easy, and every day Mouna Nouma faces an ocean of difficulties in introducing and developing Orienteering in his country. “We have lots of problems. The Association doesn’t receive any financial support, everything being done with funds we raise and sometimes using our personal means. Recently we couldn’t take part in the Championships in Egypt because of lack of finance, despite our efforts and obtaining the visa. And we don’t have materials such as flags, GPS etc.”, says Nouma.

13231013_10204893866381362_6806504_nDespite all the problems, Mouna Nouma seems to be optimistic about the future: “Of course Cameroon is a country open to all sports and, believe me, we’ll be a great Orienteering nation in ten years’ time.” For this to happen, there is much work ahead: “Currently there are many tasks waiting for me, but firstly I would like to make the discipline popular in Cameroon. I would also like to find some partners to support our efforts. But my biggest wish would be to represent IOF in Central Africa, be an agent in the development of our sport and take part in international competitions with a team that would dignify our country”, Mouna concludes.

[Photos courtesy of Mouna Nouma]

Joaquim Margarido

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