Will he be in the locker room at the Al-Janoub stadium just before kick-off, motivating his troops with one of those fiery speeches he has made a specialty of in recent months? Or will he suddenly be discreet, contrary to his habits, he the former star player and new president of the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) Samuel Eto’o, at a time when his Lions indomitable must roar from the decisive start of their World Cup against Switzerland, Thursday, November 24?
The question is not neutral for the national team of Cameroon, which, in Qatar, will evolve more than ever under the gaze and the pressure of the former star striker of FC Barcelona and Inter Milan, always prowling in the “den”, the nickname of the base of the Lions wherever they are. The management of the team makes no secret of this. Sent to a press conference on Monday, November 21 in place of coach Rigobert Song, his deputy Sébastien Migné defined the roadmap as follows: “Trying to give the best image possible (…) hoping to satisfy the demands of our president. »
“Bring the trophy home”
And they are high, these requirements. Nothing less than “bring the trophy home”, hammers Samuel Eto’o on all tones. Since his arrival at the head of Fecafoot in December 2021, the leader has only one idea in mind: to remake Cameroon a leading nation in world football, and to put an end to these regular poor performances where Lions with spoiled teeth bite into the void, drooling on their past glory.
Since its exciting historic quarter-final in 1990, Cameroon has certainly celebrated its ninth participation in the World Cup in Qatar, a record for a country on the African continent, but its last outings in 2010 and 2014 (the team was absent in 2018) leave a taste bitterness of chained defeats (six in total). These disillusions, Samuel Eto’o knows them for having lived them, like that of 2002 (elimination in the first round after a victory and a draw), even more acute for him because, “with an incredible team then, we were not convinced enough that we could win”, he often repeats. Hence the objective he sets today, even if it means overdoing it.
Ways of a blaster
It’s in his nature anyway. He arrived at the head of Fecafoot with the manners of a blaster. Outside the old executives, make way for new men. His. Samuel Eto’o changed all the coaches of the youth selections, and of course chose the leader of the national team, Cameroonian and not foreign as usual: the former most capped player of the Lions (137 caps ) Rigobert Song, one of his faithful supporters during the conquest of federal power.
He then applied himself to finding funds to relaunch the national championship, bloodless, prior to the essential increase in the level of local players. He focused on reviving his institution, which was in bad financial shape. “With me, no eight-month salary arrears, no more bonus problems,” he boasted at the beginning of November in an interview of more than two hours with the Cameroonian private channel Canal 2 International.
The coach in the hot seat
The Eto’o revolution? She doesn’t please everyone. His decision in August 2022 to break a contract running until the end of 2023 with the equipment manufacturer Le Coq sportif to prefer the American company One All Sports, an unknown brand in football and linked to motor racing, has raised many questions. His regular outings in the Lions locker room, always filmed by federal cameras, question Rigobert Song’s freedom in his choices.
On this chapter, the non-selection of Michael Ngadeu, decisive passer on the qualifying goal at the World Cup in Algeria in March 2022 (2-1), continues to cause ink to flow. The player had criticized certain talkative interventions by Samuel Eto’o. His place in the team had however been guaranteed by Rigobert Song.
The coach himself is also in the hot seat, as the last matches of the Lions seem worrying. In order, two defeats against Uzbekistan and South Korea, and two draws against Jamaica and Panama. In a raised group including Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia, Cameroon will have to surpass themselves to access the rest of the competition. “We are a united group and we have a lot of desire”, assures striker Éric Choupo-Moting. Certainly. The president is now waiting for something concrete.