What awaits Samuel Eto’o, new president of Cameroonian football

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Samuel Eto'o, new Cameroonian football boss, in Yaoundé, December 11, 2021.

Organized in a hotel in Yaoundé completely sealed off by the police, broadcast live on television, it is an understatement to say that the election of the new boss of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) was expected. Not only have football fans been deprived of competition since the championships came to an end in September with no resumption date set, but the country is also supposed to host the next African Cup of Nations. (CAN) 2021 from January 9 to February 6, 2022.

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Massively supported by public opinion, Samuel Eto’o, former striker of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon (118 selections, 56 goals), was therefore elected, Saturday, December 11, at the head of the body for a four-year term. by beating the outgoing president, Seidou Mbombo Njoya, by 43 votes to 31. Two years after putting an end to his football career, the ex-striker of FC Barcelona and Inter Milan is the first player since election of Pascal Owona in 1993, to reach the top of the Cameroonian football hierarchy.

And the task promises to be difficult: Samuel Eto’o, 40, inherits an organization weakened by repeated crises and local football in dire need of resources. Review of the files awaiting the new president.

Change the image of the federation

Fecafoot has been going through a serious governance crisis for several years. It has been placed several times under the supervision of standardization committees by the International Football Federation (FIFA): from 2013 to 2015, following the re-election of Mohamed Iya, and from 2017 to 2018, after the election of Tombi. In Roko, all against the backdrop of accusations of corruption.

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Samuel Eto’o, eager to show that times have changed, announced that he would not keep any of the salary he will receive for his new functions and that he would donate it to develop amateur football in Cameroon. He also renewed 90% of the executive committee of the federation, keeping only four members of the old team.

The former captain of the Indomitable Lions wishes to establish a charter of good conduct which will apply to the members of the executive committee and to the presidents of the decentralized leagues, but also to improve the communication of the body by means, in particular, of the creation of a channel dedicated to the sports press and the modernization of the Fecafoot website.

Relaunching the competition, from the grassroots to the pros

Samuel Eto’o was very critical of Seidou Mbombo Njoya’s record. He criticized her for an exercise of power that was too lonely, for conflicting relations with the Cameroonian sports ministry and for not having kept its commitments in terms of the development of women’s football. “The expectations vis-à-vis Eto’o are very high when it comes to football for young people, women’s football, but also professional football, deplores the leader of a professional club. People expect long-lasting, well-organized competitions. Amateurs and supporters are tired of seeing Cameroonian football do so badly. During continental competitions, our clubs are often very quickly eliminated! “

The new president of Fecafoot, who was African champion in 2000 and 2002, wants in particular to organize a national championship including the different age categories. Himself from a local training center, the Kadji Sport Academies, Samuel Eto’o plans to build three structures of this type and forty municipal stadiums by 2030.

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Mr. Eto’o is committed to making the professional championships (league 1 and 2) more attractive, by attracting new economic partners and by working to increase the subsidies allocated to clubs by the State. To achieve this goal, he wants to work more closely with the Cameroon Professional Football League (LFPC). Relations between the two bodies had deteriorated in 2020 when each wanted to organize its own championship.

The new Cameroonian football boss will also have to tackle improving the living conditions of professional players, many of whom receive salaries that are rarely sufficient to meet their needs. “Today, many of us are forced to do odd jobs on the side!, denounces Joël Ndzana, currently without a club after having left Panthère sportive du Ndé. « Or, he continues, we are asking for simple things: a regular schedule for professional championships, which is the minimum for a big football country like Cameroon; decent salaries paid to players every month, respect for contracts signed by clubss. Eto’o knows the realities of local football, and that’s why the players mostly supported him. “

A “unifying” president

Can Samuel Eto’o meet these challenges? During his campaign, the former champion was in any case presented as a unifier. “He said he was ready to listen to divergent opinions, to reach out and even to involve opponents in the management of the federation”, explains Jean-Samuel Biyong, journalist at CRTV Cameroon Radio Television. “He believes that Cameroonian football has been divided for too long, especially because of the crises that have shaken Fecafoot, and that it is time to put an end to that”, adds someone close to the instance. The Eto’o candidate had courted many former internationals, including Emmanuel Maboang, Jules Onana, Roger Milla, Patrick Mboma, Rigobert Song and a few others, who officially supported him.

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The trial by fire will come quickly for the new ruler. Become de facto Vice-president of the organizing committee of the CAN, he will be from January on the front line for the organization of a competition whose preparation by Cameroon has suffered many delays and difficulties. “I hope the team will win this CAN. It won’t be easy, but it is possible ”, he said in October. His compatriots secretly hope that his presence will be an additional source of motivation for the national team, five years after his unexpected coronation in 2017.

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What awaits Samuel Eto’o, new president of Cameroonian football