Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon
career will be remembered as both brilliant and blemished.
The 33-year-old made his debut for the Indomitable Lions in 1997, aged just 15, and announced his retirement from internationals last Tuesday.
In the intervening 18 years – more than half of his life – he experienced the highs of winning titles as part of a toothsome and dangerous pride but also deep lows in recent times as Cameroon became a ragged outfit both on and off the pitch.
As the Indomitable Lions fortunes have waned, Eto’o’s reputation has taken some damaging blows – often self-inflicted as the striker’s behaviour was frequently the antithesis of what was expected after he became captain in 2009.
The new Everton striker’s greatest international achievements came when he was surrounded by quality players in the Cameroon side: the likes of Patrick Mboma, the late Marc-Vivien Foe, Geremi Njitap, Lauren Etame Mayer and even Rigobert Song.
In those halcyon days, the team mixed brute physical strength with tactical discipline and Eto’o’s clinical finishing – he is his country’s all-time leading scorer with 54 goals – helped clinch Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2000 and 2002.
Eto’o contested six Nations Cups in all, and leaves a major mark on the tournament by virtue of being its all-time top scorer. His 18 goals, four more than the next best total, is a benchmark likely to stand for some considerable time.
In between those back-to-back titles came a stunning Olympic gold medal as Cameroon beat Brazil on the way to the final, where they overcame a Spain side boasting Xavi and Carles Puyol.
Douala-born Eto’o played a major part in defeating the Spanish, scoring the goal that brought Cameroon back to 2-2 and forced extra-time, and then slotting home his kick to help win the penalty shootout.
But as Cameroon’s top talents fell away, Eto’o struggled to fill the void; not that one man, however talented, can carry a national side as Liberia’s George Weah, the only African to ever be crowned Fifa World Footballer of the Year, can attest.
Mboma himself told Tidesports source last Tuesday that “In our time, we had four to five leaders – Foe, myself, Raymond Kalla, Song – and when we left, Eto’o was almost alone in the team.”
But rather than any footballing deficiencies it was Eto’o’s squabbles with team-mates – he accused them of refusing to pass to him and also had an ugly feud with Alex Song – that dented his legacy.
“Under his captaincy, Eto’o did not help his team become stronger,” added Mboma. “He wasn’t negative to his team-mates, but he wasn’t that positive. He was more for himself rather than the whole squad, which is probably the reason why Cameroon have not won a title for a long time.”
Despite being national captain, there was little love lost between Eto’o and the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot).
In 2011 the former Chelsea man put aside his differences with his team-mates to lead a revolt against Fecafoot – with players so tired of receiving payments late they refused to honour a friendly against Algeria.
Eto’o’s actions earned him a 15-match ban that was later reduced to eight months, yet he remained in exile after his suspension ended as he railed against the “amateurish and poorly-organised” national set-up.
Rushed back into action after a meeting with representatives of the country’s president, Eto’o’s Cameroon failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2013 Nations Cups – an astonishing record considering they had reached at least the quarter-finals at the previous seven tournaments.
Three Uefa Champions League medals (2006, 2009, 2010), four league titles (three in Spain, one in Italy), four national cups (two in Spain, two in Italy), one Club World Cup (2010)
But the nadir of the four-time African Footballer of the Year’s international career came in the World Cup, a tournament where he had long hoped to emulate the feats of his childhood hero, 1990 star Roger Milla.
At the tournament in South Africa in 2010 – the first edition to be held on African soil – Cameroon were the first team to leave the competition, prompting Eto’o to describe their exit after just two games as the biggest disappointment of his career.
He would play in a total of four World Cups (a joint African record), after making his debut as a 17-year-old against Italy in the 1998 finals, but never managed to help Cameroon into the knock-out stage.
Although he scored the goal that secured the 1990 World Cup quarter-finalists’ last group win, when beating Saudi Arabia in 2002, Cameroon has since lost seven straight games at the finals.
The last defeat came against Mexico at this year’s World Cup but marking Eto’o’s 118th – and last – appearance, it did at least allow an African football icon to bow out on the sport’s greatest stage.
Piers writes for BBC Sports.
Aiteo Cup: Diri Hails Bayelsa Finalists
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has lauded the feat of the state-owned football teams who reached the finals in the male and female categories of the 2021 Aiteo Cup.
Diri, while congratulating Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens for their outstanding performances, praised their indomitable spirit and resilience in surmounting the odds to qualify for the last stage of Nigeria’s oldest football competition.
Bayelsa United, who plays in the second tier Nigerian National League, on Friday defeated Premier League neighbours Rivers United 1-0 in the semi-finals, while Bayelsa Queens crushed perennial rivals Rivers Angels 5-0 to reach the women’s final.
The Governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, on Saturday, described Bayelsa United as “giant killers” for defeating Premier League sides Enugu Rangers, Lobi Stars and Rivers United on their way to the final.
“The excellent run of Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens in this year’s Aiteo Cup is very heartwarming. Both teams reaching the finals is no mean feat. I congratulate them for making the state proud and setting a record of teams from the state playing in the finals of the male and female categories of the same competition for the first time,” Diri stated.
“By their outstanding performance, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens have shown that the sporting revolution of our Prosperity Administration, which resulted in Bayelsa placing third in the last National Sports Festival in Edo State for the first time, is on course. I therefore urge them to complete their excellent run in the competition by bringing home the trophies.
D’Tigress To Play Mozambique In Afrobasket
Nigeria’s senior basketball team, D’Tigress, have been drawn to face Mozambique and a yet to qualify team in Group B of the 2021 Women’s Afrobasket, which holds from September 17 to 27 in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The draw was held in Yaounde last Saturday.
D’Tigress will be hoping to retain the title they won two years ago in Senegal, where they defeated the hosts in the final. A win in Cameroon will mean they have won the last three editions of the tournament.
The Nigerians will know their final group opponent when the FIBA Zone 6 qualifiers take place from August 16 to 22.
In Group A, hosts Cameroon will face Cape Verde and Kenya, while Senegal, the most successful team in the competition’s history with 11 first-place finishes, will slug it out with Egypt and Gabon in Group C.
Mali, Ivory Coast, and a team to be decided via wild card will fight for a slot in the next round in Group D.
Ebonyi Football Fans Celebrate Nwankwo Kanu At 45
Football fans in Ebonyi State yesterday, celebrated the birthday of formerNigerian international and Arsenal legend, Nwankwo Kanu.
The former Super Eagles skipper turned 45 yesterday.
Tidespoets source gathered that the 1993 FIFA U-17 world cup winner, fondly called “Papillo’’ by his fans had 86 caps for Nigeria.
The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale Football Club of Owerri’s talisman scored 13 goals for Nigeria in an enviable career that spanned from 1994 to 2010.
Kanu is a recipient of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), an Olympic Games football gold medalist and had illustrious club careers with Ajax Amsterdam of Holland, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion of England.
Defunct Ebonyi Angels FC of Abakaliki Defender, James Onele, said that Kanu thrilled soccer fans across the world with sublime skills and trademark passes.
“Kanu won two African Footballer of the Year awards, an AFCON silver medal, four AFCON bronze medals among other honours.
“He was the first Nigerian, alongside Finidi George to win the prestigious UEFA champions league trophy with Ajax in 1995,” said Onele.
An Arsenal FC supporter, Ejike Okoro, said the club’s fans were proud of Kanu’s achievements during his time with the English Premier League side.
“Kanu played 197 times for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals and was part of the club’s invincible team that did not lose any match in the 2003-04 EPL season.
“He was instrumental in endearing Arsenal to millions of Nigerian soccer fans, despite later dropping to lowly-rated clubs such as Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion,” Okoro said.
A banker and football enthusiast, Chief Barry Ogoh, told active footballers to emulate Papillo in investing adequately for the ‘rainy day’.
“Kanu, Augustine J.J. Okocha, among other ex-internationals are still financially stable as many ex-internationals have become bankrupt.
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