FIFA is under pressure to remove Cameroon FA (FECAFOOT) president Samuel Eto’o from his role after a group of the country’s football officials have called on the organisation to take action against the former striker.
The group — which includes Pierre Semengue, President of the Professional Football League of Cameroon and Henry Njalla Quan Junior, a former FECAFOOT vice-president — have written a letter jointly addressing FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Patrice Motsepe, questioning how he has been allowed to continue “to illegally impose himself on the FECAFOOT presidency” after a series of public incidents.
A CAF investigation into “certain alleged improper conduct” of Eto’o was opened in early August, a few weeks after leaked audio had emerged claiming to implicate the 42-year-old in a match-fixing scandal, which he strongly denied.
On the recording, Eto’o said at the time to Gazzetta dello Sport: “I was talking to a friend, someone who invests in football and wants to make his club one of the best in Cameroon. I just reassured him by saying that I would have done everything possible to avoid any refereeing errors against him.”
That no further action has yet been taken, the letter adds, “lies at the very heart of football’s issues of integrity, ethics and fair play”.
As well as the audio, the letter also calls attention to Eto’o’s tax fraud case — in which he was given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay a fine — as well as an altercation between him and a supporter during the World Cup and his sponsorship contract with the betting company 1XBET.
The letter says “it is surprising that (FIFA) has remained silent” on Eto’o, pointing to swift action taken against Spanish FA (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales over his actions following the Women’s World Cup final. FIFA suspended Rubiales and the 46-year-old later resigned from his role.
“Not a word has been heard from FIFA,” the letter reads, “despite numerous complaints and reminders from Cameroonian football actors.
“How can FIFA continue to remain silent in the face of so many scandals that compromise public confidence in sporting ethics and the sincerity of matches?”
The letter particularly criticises Infantino after he and Eto’o met and were pictured together in France to discuss “football development” earlier this month.
“The sad reality of this two-speed management of almost identical situations is that Africa remains a kind of enclave where you can take liberties with the ethics and exemplarity that sports leaders should embody,” the letter says.
“Can you imagine FIFA and UEFA remaining silent when the president of a European football federation is suspected of match-fixing, with audio recordings to back it up?
“Can you imagine FIFA and UEFA keeping quiet while the president of a European soccer federation signed a personal ambassadorship contract with a sports betting operator?”
Though Eto’o does not directly work for FIFA, FECAFOOT is a member of world football’s governing body and of CAF.
What does the letter say about the Eto’o incidents?
Eto’o admitted a charge of tax fraud of €3.8million ($4m), from when he was playing for Barcelona between 2006 and 2009, in 2022. A Spanish court handed him a 22-month suspended prison sentence and ordered him to pay a €1.8m fine, as well as the €3.8m owed.
The letter says “the clear provisions of article 47 of the FECAFOOT statutes” mean Eto’o should have vacated his role but that he “continues to illegally impose himself” as president of the organisation. Those statutes refer to an individual leaving the role “where the President is in a situation of incompatibility or ineligibility during his term of office”.
It also highlights an incident between Eto’o and a supporter outside a game during the men’s World Cup last year that was filmed and uploaded to social media. Eto’o later apologised for the “violent altercation” that occurred.
A deal between Eto’o and the sports betting company 1XBET has also come under fire. Eto’o signed a deal to be an ambassador for the company earlier this year, which the letter believes to be “in flagrant violation” of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
Those state that individuals “shall not have any interests, either directly or indirectly (through or in conjunction with third parties), in entities, companies, organisations, etc. that promote, broker, arrange or conduct betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions connected with football matches and competitions”. A representative for Eto’o denied that the sponsorship deal was improper in Cameroonian media.
When contacted by this source, CAF referred to a previous statement from early August in which it says it “is looking into these requests based on and in accordance with the CAF Statutes and Regulations”.
This source has also approached FIFA for comment.
CC: The Athletic