Some disgruntled football officials in Cameroon have petitioned the International Football Federation (FIFA) and Confederation of African Football (CAF) to remove Samuel Eto’o Fils from being President of the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT).
In an open letter addressed to FIFA President Gianni Infantino and CAF President Patrice Motsepe, the petitioners said Eto’o’s mandate at the Federation is “illegal”, owing to the many scandals that have rocked his mandate in the last few months.
Barely two years into his four-year mandate at FECAFOOT, Eto’o is facing accusations of fraud, match-fixing, mismanagement, and inappropriate behaviour.
Among those pressuring FIFA to sanction Eto’o are his former allies who were either sacked or resigned from FECAFOOT.
The petitioners include General Pierre Semengue, Henri Njalla Quan Jr., Guibai Gatama, Abdouraman Hamadou, Henri Claude Mballa, Joseph Feutcheu, Faustin Domkeu, Pierre Djilli Ndengue, and Francois Kouedem.
Accusing CAF and FIFA of shielding Eto’o from justice, they said the football governing bodies “must stop being dens of all kinds of lawless individuals, who benefit from the protection of CAF and FIFA”.
“The obligation to set an example must also concern African sports leaders and it is as much up to FIFA as to CAF to ensure this, without weakness, without discrimination, or evasions.”
Rocked by Scandals
One of the earliest scandals that Eto’o has encountered at the helm of FECAFOOT came on June 29, 2022, when a Spanish court handed him a 22-month suspended sentence for defrauding the Spanish government of 3.8 million euros. While this meant Eto’o had joined a long list of international players or managers to be charged with tax fraud in Spain, it used by his detractors to attack his FECAFOOT presidency.
Eto’o’s opponents argued that Article 46 of the FECAFOOT statutes, meant that Eto’o had to step down from his position as president, the petitioners said. Eto’o, however, did not resign.
The legendary footballer again came under public scrutiny this year after an intense disagreement with the fourth Vice President of FECAFOOT, Henri Njalla Quan.
Njalla Quan resigned from the Federation in July after accusing Eto’o of corruption and mismanagement. A week later, Eto’o was wrapped up in a match-fixing scandal after a telephone conversation between him and a match official leaked out.
On August 9, CAF announced it had opened investigations on Eto’o for alleged improper conduct after receiving petitions from football stakeholders in Cameroon.
“The CAF considered the allegations brought to its attention at ‘first glance serious’. But since then, no action has been taken on this matter, which is at the very heart of football’s issues of sporting integrity, ethics and fairness,” the petitioners wrote.
They also frowned at FIFA for giving a deaf ear to their complaints and chastised FIFA president Gianni Infantino for continuing to dine with Eto’o.
Both officials met in Paris on September 14 to discuss projects FIFA intends to sponsor in Cameroon.
Amid the reported scandals facing him, Eto’o Fils continues to receive praise nationally and internationally for reforming football at the local level.
The former Indomitable Lions captain has introduced many reforms into local football, including raising local players’ salaries; obliging clubs to ensure their players, have permanent structures and training fields, and taking measures to boost football infrastructure in the country.
During Eto’o’s mandate at FECAFOOT, Cameroonians have developed more interest in local football, with thousands of people flooding stadiums during local league games.
The United Nations recognized his effort on September 25, and offered him an award for contributing to the fight against abuse and human trafficking in sports.