In Cameroon, Samuel Eto’o, president of the football federation faces an internal rebellion

A fan of bravado, Samuel Eto'o, during his years on the football fields, never sought to build consensus around his person

In Cameroon, Samuel Eto’o, president of the football federation faces an internal rebellion

A fan of bravado, Samuel Eto'o, during his years on the football fields, never sought to build consensus around his person. Becoming president of the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fécafoot) in December 2021, the former star of FC Barcelona and Inter Milan has not changed on this point.

Quite the contrary. Several personalities from Cameroonian football addressed a column on Monday September 25 to Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, and to Patrice Motsepe, the boss of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), of which Le Monde obtained a copy.

The authors of this correspondence, including the influential general Pierre Semengue, president of the Professional Football League – and close to Paul Biya, the head of state –, Guibaï Gatama, journalist and member of the executive committee of Fécafoot, and Henry Njalla Quan Junior, resigning 4th vice-president of the body, are surprised by the “silent” attitude of FIFA regarding Samuel Eto'o.

“She quickly took action against Luis Rubiales [the resigning president of the Spanish federation, accused of sexual assault on a player after the final of the Women's World Cup and suspended for 90 days by FIFA six days after the fact]. But FIFA has not sketched the slightest reaction regarding the actions of Samuel Eto'o, while the facts and evidence are accumulating and he should no longer be in office,” says Guibaï Gatama astonished .

Alleged corruption

The signatories of this letter list the reprehensible acts, according to them, committed by the former striker of the Indomitable Lions since his election. “He was sentenced in June 2022 by the Spanish courts for tax fraud amounting to 3.8 million euros, to twenty-two months in prison, a sentence suspended for five years. If we look at the statutes of Fécafoot, this conviction should have resulted in his resignation. Samuel Eto’o also signed a personal sponsorship contract with the sports betting company 1XBET in May 2023. What would we have said if a coach or referee had done the same thing? », asks the same interlocutor.

This column also refers to the revelations, made in July by the site, of suspicions of match-fixing in Cameroon, after the broadcast of a telephone interview between Samuel Eto'o and Valentine Gwain, the president of the Victoria United club. (League 2), in January. The president of Fécafoot is in fact suspected of having favored the accession of Victoria United to Ligue 1.

The body he heads then qualified these recordings as “fake”, but the CAF decided, in August, that the acts of alleged corruption accused of Samuel Eto'o were serious enough to decide on the opening of a investigation.

“Since then, nothing has happened. There are rules for everyone but, obviously, Samuel Eto’o escapes them. In recent history, leaders like Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini or Ahmad Ahmad [respectively former presidents of FIFA, UEFA and CAF] have been sanctioned but, for him, nothing is happening. It’s quite disturbing,” fumes Henry Njalla Quan Junior, who resigned from his position as 4th vice-president of the federation.

Termination of contract with the equipment manufacturer

The main objective of this text is to provoke a reaction from FIFA and CAF to the governance that Samuel Eto'o would impose. “What example is given, with a federation president who acts as he pleases, exercises absolute power by muzzling, threatening or removing his opponents? This risks setting a precedent and other unscrupulous presidents will be tempted to act in the same way as Eto'o", continues Guibaï Gatama, suspended from his functions for two years by Fécafoot, which accuses him of not having attended a summons from its executive committee.

Since the arrival of Samuel Eto'o at the head of Fécafoot, already known for his business, observers of Cameroonian football have not lacked topics of conversation: the dismissal in February 2022 of Portuguese coach Toni Conceição and his staff technique after the 2022 African Cup of Nations held in Cameroon, while the technician was under contract until August 2023, cost the taxpayer €1.5 million.

Subsequently, the termination in July 2022 of the contract which linked the federation to the French equipment manufacturer Le Coq sportif, a year and a half from its end (December 31, 2023), to engage with the American company One All Sport, seriously affected the ex-footballer's relationship with former tennis player Yannick Noah, administrator of Coq sportif and a major player in the return of the French brand as equipment supplier to the Indomitable Lions in 2019.

Attempt to increase term from four to seven years

Samuel Eto'o also had the extension of his mandate from four to seven years adopted in August 2022, during a general assembly held in Douala, a decision ultimately canceled by FIFA in May. Elected against Seidou Mbombo Njoya, the outgoing president, despite attempts by CAF and FIFA to convince him to withdraw and join forces with his opponent, the former star of Cameroonian football has since been heavily involved in that the 2022 African Cup of Nations takes place in his country on the scheduled dates.

A personal investment while the FIFA president put pressure on CAF for the competition to be postponed, due to the revolt of certain European clubs reluctant to release their African internationals during the season.

Le Monde Afrique contacted Blaise Djounang, the secretary general of Fécafoot, several times in order to obtain an official reaction, but the leader did not respond to our requests.