The President of the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) gave a scathing interview to Cameroon international media channel, Canal 2 International, on his achievements eleven (11) months into his tenure, prospects for the upcoming World Cup, criticisms on his managerial nous and the way forward for Cameroon football.
Elected on December 11, 2021 at the helm of FECAFOOT, the two-hour exclusive interview spanned a range of topics with the burning issue at stake – which kit will the Lions wear during the Qatar World Cup and why their Executive had to part ways with the French equipment manufacturer.
Samuel Eto’o is a commercial and marketing brand who recognizes the power of the media. In a bid to clear doubts and avoid misinterpretation of facts from unknown sources, the FECAFOOT boss took it upon himself to offer a comprehensive explanation on the recent decisions taken at the helm of Cameroon football while showcasing a glimpse of the future.
Kick442, leading online sports content provider, tries to dissect the recent declarations by offering its readers insights into the exclusive interview granted to Rodrigue Tongue at Canal 2 International.
One All Sports – The new kit provider
On July 1, 2022, FECAFOOT announced the end of its collaboration with Le Coq Sportif. A decision by President Samuel Eto’o which took effect at the end of the Women’s African Cup which ended on July 23rd. During the interview, Samuel Eto’o revealed why he had to part ways with the French equipment manufacturer. “No one can leave a marriage that works well… what we want is serious partners… My committee and I have made the best decision…”, confided the ex-captain of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
He further added: “… You know we pride ourselves on being a serious administration. If my staff and I were not convinced that this was the best choice for Cameroonian football, then I would not have signed this contract”.
Many sporting federations in Cameroon depend on government subventions and the sports industry can only have a niche in Cameroon if sports officials and executives understand the power and dynamics of sports branding. “What we sell is football. And to pay salaries, we need money. If our partners do not accompany us as the clauses of the contract indicate, it is therefore normal that we try to look elsewhere.
And in this case, my executive committee and I have made the decision to look elsewhere. And we made the best decision”.
Cameroon’s most successful kit provider, Puma, ended its association with FECAFOOT in 2018 with the last contract signed in 2010 offering 10 billion CFA francs plus all national team equipment and balls to all training centres across the country for eight (8) years. Cameroon then signed a contract with French equipment provider, Le Coq Sportif in 2019 valid for a period of 4 years offering 500 million CFA francs plus clothing the teams of the Cameroon women’s football championship and offering sports scholarships to deserving student athletes.
Collaboration between the current executive stalled and as far back as October 2019, the Minister of Sports asked for explanations from FECAFOOT after noting a real deficit in the quantity of equipment and sports kits made available to the national teams during major international sports competitions.
Despite rumours linking FECAFOOT with a reunion with PUMA following the termination of their contract with Le Coq Sportif, Samuel Eto’o announced that they will sign a new three-year kit supply agreement with One All Sports. “The contract with One All Sports was signed in Yaoundé, at the Mont Febe hotel”, Samuel Eto’o made mention. He further opined: “As part of the execution of this agreement, the new equipment manufacturer undertakes to pay the sum of 1 billion FCFA per year to the Cameroonian Football Federation. The partnership also includes the supply of equipment worth one million euros (650 million FCFA) per year for the national teams, and a VIP luxury bus for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon”.
Criticism on his managerial know-how
Ever since the young Samuel Eto’o landed on the shores of Spain, his life has always been one of scrutiny, hardship, battle to be the best and controversy.
He sent a scathing message to his critics about the need for managerial honesty and transparency, virtues which are lacking in the Cameroonian landscape: “I just wanted to be honest with the people of Cameroon… some thought we had something to hide… some even tried to tell the public that I was getting my financial health back. But those – they forget that when they have difficulties, it is often towards me that they turn to so that I can help them”. Sports is an apolitical environment but it is difficult not to admire the political undertones offered to the plight of the football masses, sweating in the scorching heat day in -day out so as to make their dream come true: “The only thing that guides me is to improve the conditions of footballers, to pay salaries… people forget that we have to pay the salaries… from time to time I use my personal money to pay for several things. We didn’t come to the Federation to earn money. Besides, it shows, even the blind are getting their sight back with what we are doing”.
Article 3.4 of FIFA Equipment Regulations clearly states: FIFA will not be liable in any circumstances to any Member Association, Manufacturer, sponsor, for any claims, losses, fees, damages, costs, taxes, or other charges of any kind whatsoever that may arise or be incurred as a direct or indirect result of the implementation of these Regulations. That’s why FECAFOOT President, Samuel Eto’o reiterated: “They wanted to manipulate public opinion by making us believe that FIFA controls us … FIFA only listens to what their federations say…”
On the brink of an abyss, finally thrust into the limelight
The current Cameroon Golden Ball winner, Marou Souaibou, commented after receiving his individual accolade, in a ceremony organized 30 years after the last one in 1992 that Football and its stakeholders were in total darkness. It was quite a bold statement to make given the fact that 5 years ago, Team Cameroon won the AFCON, has hosted 3 international competitions (AWCON 2016, CHAN 2020 and AFCON 2021).
But the abyss that he was referring to certainly was in resource management. The football industry in Cameroon has so many resources and talents across various sectors that it takes leadership skills to extract the best talents and resources to move football forward. Since December 11, 2021, FECAFOOT employees have been treated to a change in mindset. Although a small microcosm of the Cameroonian society, Samuel Eto’o insists on being the change he wants the change to be: “When you are an employee of FECAFOOT, you have rights but also duties towards FECAFOOT. What the federation cannot accept is that you serve the interests of a few people lurking in the shadows. I am not a substitute for the law. The justice department is doing its job. FECAFOOT is not Samuel Eto’o.
Please let the law establish the responsibilities… We must respect the law of our country”.
In a country noted for tribalism, nepotism, corruption, no respect of deadlines, incompetence, public sector problems, private sector slow growth, youth unemployment, health and education sector challenges, utilities shortages and outages… football and sports bring out hope and a smile on the faces of Cameroonians for every important achievement and milestone.
On the way forward towards a better
management of financial resources within the federation, Samuel Eto’o added: “The audit is over. The work has been presented to the delegates. I have been given a mandate to prosecute those responsible… It is important that people understand that managing public affairs is not the same as managing one’s own property. Public affairs must be respected”.
The chances of the Indomitable Lions in Qatar
“The message I’m trying to convey to the Lions is that they know and above all that they are aware that it is possible to win a World Cup. I hope they arrive in Qatar with the mentality of any other nation that qualifies for the World Cup, that of going and winning this World Cup. It’s not about having individuals. It’s about having a good team. It’s about having a group, who wants to live an experience together…” Samuel Eto’o talked about his 2009/2010 season with Inter Milan and José Mourinho and about how they believed they could make it to the final and even win the competition. “And in the end, we did it… So for me, anything is possible”.
“The list of players will be announced by manager Rigobert Song during a press conference”.
Samuel Eto’o also talked about the alleged refusal of the national flag at the farewell match going for the Brazil 2014 World Cup, the mandate of the current Executive, sponsors, the former Secretary General, the absence of the Minister of Sports at the Cameroon Balon d’Or ceremony, Politics, CAF or FIFA ambitions and many other salient issues but explained that these issues occupy the back burner and that all hopes, prayers should be directed towards the Indomitable Lions preparations for the Qatar World Cup.