COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On January 25, Colorado Rapids team president Tim Hinchey celebrated the arrival of 18-year-old Cameroonian international Charles Eloundou from tiny Cameroonian club AS Fortuna, describing him as a "new, exciting player" set to join the club.
Little did Hinchey or the Rapids know that more than two months later, Eloundou would still be in his homeland, yet to set foot on Colorado soil.
A lengthy tug-of-war between the Cameroonian FA and MLS has emerged, according to Rapids technical director Paul Bravo, who spoke at length about Eloundou's complicated situation during practice on Wednesday. Colorado and MLS are hoping to resolve the situation shortly, although time is running short for a solution to be reached.
The Rapids and MLS have until the end of the primary transfer window, May 6, to wrap up the process to secure the midfielder's services, or club and the league may not be able to land the talented Cameroonian after all.
"I think we're close to getting a resolution with his situation," Bravo said. "What we've put together is a timeline of the events and MLS proceeds us getting the players right. MLS signed him back in December when he turned 18, and that has started the timeline. Unfortunately, it has taken much longer that we hoped and expected."
Eloundou is currently training in his native Cameroon, according to Bravo. Less than two months removed from having made his full international debut at the tender age of 18 (he subbed on in the second half of a friendly against Tanzania), Eloundou is considered one of the brightest prospects in West Africa with several European clubs now on his trail, according to Bravo.
With his stock and price tag rising, several Cameroonian clubs are trying to get a piece of the Eloundou financial pie, complicating and delaying his arrival in the United States despite documents that have attached him to MLS and the Rapids.
The Cameroonian FA and the U.S. Soccer Federation have now gone to FIFA to sort out the mess, according to Bravo.
"It's up to the Cameroon FA to respond to the U.S. Soccer request [for Eloundou]. And then it's up to the league to request from the federation to submit that stuff to FIFA, and then for FIFA to take action," Bravo said, while adding that the Eloundou move is not a loan as originally thought, but a purchase. "The next step is hopefully to get a ruling from FIFA."
There is still a laundry list of complications surrounding the ongoing saga. But despite all the obstacles and hiccups, Bravo sees a potential bright light at the end of a two-month tunnel of headaches, international phone calls and paperwork, assuming Colorado can secure Eloundou's services.
"Certainly the reason why we entered into the lottery for him is because he brings an element of sheer pace and skill to the attack," Bravo said. "I feel bad for the young man."