“I’m ready to take the penalty,” said Cameroonian presidential hopeful and fan of football metaphors Maurice Kamto at a campaign rally in Yaounde on Sunday.
Kamto, leader of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), appeared on stage in a bespoke Adidas football jersey and Nike trainers in front of the city’s Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium.
He told a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters that he would fight corruption and that “nobody will cheat our vote” ahead of the presidential vote on October 7.
“Change is going to come in this country,” he said to cries of “goal” from the vocal crowd.
But Kamto, 64, faces an uphill battle to unseat Cameroon’s president of 35-years Paul Biya next Sunday, with some of his backers alleging that the playing field is uneven.
Party activist Alain Fogue accused police of deliberately blocking roads around the stadium to prevent supporters reaching the rally.
“This is our Cameroonian democracy,” he said.
Cameroon’s authorities have long faced accusations of unfairly favouring the 85-year-old Biya.
“It’s not that he’s an outright cheater, it’s more that he controls the resources of the state and can ensure support,” said MRC activist Emilien Thafack, 29.
Heavy rain sent many MRC supporters who had gathered in the stadium car park scrambling for cover before Kamto’s arrival.
Those who braved the downpour were treated to the lyrical stylings of local rapper Valsero.
“In each game we take a penalty… our job is to protect to the striker,” he said to rapturous cheers.
Kamto’s followers are optimistic with one even making a symbolic victory lap around the stadium car park clutching a home-made match trophy.
Soccer’s symbolism is not lost on ordinary Cameroonians for whom football is a national religion with the country having won the CAF Confederation cup in 2017.
Kamto is an unknown quantity and has never previously sought victory at the ballot box. Analysts expect he could trail the main opposition Social Democratic Front party.