Former Netherlands international Hesterine De Reus wants the investment in women’s football in Cameroon to match the fans passion for the sport.
The 58-year-old former Australia coach says that the sport can thrive if there is a collective effort and some fundamental changes.
She was talking after a recent trip to Cameroon as part of Uefa-Assist a program set up by European football’s governing body.
“We’ve (Uefa) analyzed the situation and spoken with Fecafoot about the next steps,” she told BBC Sport.
“We’re going to help with coaching education, the youth league and talent development plan by providing technical support in all these areas.”
De Reus is in no doubt that with the right support women’s football in Cameroon can flourish.
“The passion for women’s football in Cameroon is surreal,” she enthused.
“Football is in the genes of Cameroonians and they play everywhere but I feel at youth level it has to be better organized.”
“There are a lot of young talented players here but there is a need for more investment. If it is well organized, we can easily identify the young talented players and create more opportunities for them to further develop.”
“Women’s football is developing very fast on an international level and if Cameroon have the ambition to continuously qualify for the world cup, we need to start building the structures.”
During her time in Cameroon De Reus spent time with stakeholders in women’s football and also held talks with players.
Despite Cameroon having impressed at the global stage with round 16 spots in the 2015 and 2019 world cups, there is a growing belief that women’s football at grassroots levels is being ignored.
The Indomitable Lionesses have cemented their status as a continental heavyweight but the domestic championship is played in poor conditions.
In 2019, the country launched the Women’s Professional Football League to run a championship but financial troubles and poor playing conditions saw fixtures suspended for weeks at a time.
De Reus says the influence of the four-time Nations Cup runners-up must be used to spark the development of the game in the country.
“I think Cameroon has been excellent on the international stage, qualifying twice for the World Cup and going past the group stages (especially) given that the infrastructure is not so developed yet,” she said.
“They have to start organizing competitions for the youth. Fecafoot (the Cameroon Football Federation) officials told me they’re starting an under 15 league for the boys so we need to find ways for the girls to play football as well. There should be cooperation between schools so that girls can have more playing time.”
“There’s a need to organize regular training sessions and regular matches to find talented players. But once this is done, you must have structures to develop your best players to become stars.”
De Reus, who played 43 times for the Dutch national team, is upbeat that meaningful progress can be made if all the components come together.
“If you want to have a good national team, you have to look at all the structures linked to the sport to create good players for the national team such as a national team program, a talent development system and opportunity for more girls,” she explained.
“I try to analyze all the things that can have an impact on the game.”
As well as her playing experience De Reus has also coached several of the Netherlands’ youth teams before moving to Jordan, who she led the 2010 Arabia Women’s Cup title.
In 2012 she returned to take charge of the newly-formed PSV FC Eindhoven as they played in the first season of the now-defunct BeNe League, which was jointly organized by the Belgian and Dutch Football Federations.
Since then she has spent a year at the helm of Australia’s women’s side from 2013 to 2014 and also worked with China’s under-20 women’s side.