Indomitable Lions captain Samuel Eto’o Fils will be part of the attack line next Sunday October 13, 2013 when the team clashes with Tunisia in the away leg second round qualifiers for next year’s Brazil World cup. Eto’o told his team mates in the dressing room after the September 8, 2013 qualifier against Libya that he had retired from international football because of his unending conflict with football authorities in Cameroon which in two previous occasions, led to his refusal to play for the team.
Eto’o reversed his decision after meeting Secretary General at the presidency Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh yesterday in Yaounde on instruction from President Paul Biya. He told national broadcaster CRTV after his meeting that he had changed his mind because of the intervention of the president and calls from some Lions supporters for him to return to the team. Eto’o Fils is expected to train with his team mates in France today after leaving Cameroon to join them in their training camp.
As in the past, his decision has again sharply divided the country. While his supporters believe he did the right thing, his detractors hold that his continuous presence in the lineup was sharply dividing cohesion in the team which would ultimately affect the way they performed. Eto’o Fils is apparently too big for the boots and number 9 shirt he wears for the Lions.
It is however clear why he had to return to the team despite his complaints about the failure by football authorities to invest in the game and failure to nurture young players.
Real Reasons for his Return
At 32, the Brazil world cup (if Cameroon qualifies) will be the last time he will play in a world cup. In football terms, he will be too old when the next world cup takes place in five years time. He will be in the same position former English football star David Beckham was in for a couple of years; a recognised brilliant talent who can no longer perform in top form again because of his age. If he does play in Brazil next year, he will be one of a very select club of world class footballers who have played in four world cup finals. No player will willingly give up a chance to play in four world cups.
Eto’o Fils has played for some of the best teams on earth and until recently, was one of the best attackers on earth. However, since moving to play in Russia, he has really not played competitive football and this has affected his proficiency and ability. He still has to prove he has a first team place in his new team Chelsea.
However, he still loves to play for his country and has reversed two earlier decisions never to play for the team. President Biya whose supporters like to call him “the first sportsman” has largely used his position to convince Eto’o to forget his grievances and play for the country. The one thing he has not done is trying to order officials of the football governing body FECAFOOT to redress some of the problems Eto’o Fils keeps complaining about, including failure to invest in football infrastructure and the “amateurish” way the national team is run. This is no surprise because Mr Biya has ruled Cameroon on those same terms for the past 30 years.
In the end, Eto’o Fils will be forgiven if he helps Cameroon qualify for Brazil 2014. When President Biya intervened in 1990 and recalled Roger Milla to play for the Lions, his performance was outstanding. His age and quarrels with FECAFOOT officials did not matter when Milla danced and scored four beautiful goals in Italia 90 and helped Cameroon become the first African team to get to the quarter finals of the world cup.
Eto’o Fils has the youthfulness, ability and willingness to do better than Milla. His performance on the pitch will ultimately determine how we remember him in the next 10, 20 years. He can still prove his critics wrong.