Sun. Jun 9th, 2024

A group representing amateur clubs in Cameroon has called on legendary former player Samuel Eto’o to resign from his post as president of the country’s football federation, citing “grave irregularities” in the organisation.

Last week, Cameroon’s Amateur Clubs’ Association (ACFAC) voted 11-1 in favour of asking the four-time African Footballer of the Year to stand down.

It said the 42-year-old, who played for several of Europe’s top clubs, should resign “if he still loves Cameroonian football, as he has always claimed”.

ACFAC called for Cameroon’s sports minister to intervene, and mentioned the possibility of asking Fifa president Gianni Infantino to do the same.

Among its list of concerns, ACFAC said the decision to change the Fecafoot president’s mandate from four to seven years was both anti-statutory and illegal. It also highlighted the lack of publication of new statutes adopted last August.

There were also questions to answer, it said, about Eto’o’s decision to take an ambassadorial role with a sports betting company, which could be in violation of both Fifa and Fecafoot rules.

Fifa says people bound by its code “shall be forbidden from participating in, either directly or indirectly, betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions related to football matches or competitions and/or any related football activities”.

Football’s world governing body mentions a sanction of either a fine or ban from football for any violation of its ethics code regarding connections to betting and gambling, with any “direct or indirect financial interest” outlawed. It is unclear if Eto’o is personally profiting from his involvement with the company.

In late June, top-flight Cameroonian club UMS de Loum asked Fecafoot to investigate the matter, and also raised it with both Fifa and the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

Fecafoot has signed a deal with the same betting company to sponsor both the men’s and women’s international teams, as well as the top two divisions of the country’s football league.

In a statement issued at the time, the federation said the deal had been agreed in compliance with all ethical codes and was further proof of Eto’o’s drive to “modernise” Cameroonian football.

ACFAC also claimed in its statement that unnamed individuals in Fecafoot are manipulating matches in order to successfully bet on their outcomes.

The BBC invited Fecafoot to comment on the nature of ACFAC’s claims about the organisation and its president, but has received no response.

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Questionable reign

Eto’o had a hugely successful playing career, winning the Champions League three times, the Africa Cup of Nations twice, as well as league titles in Spain and Italy and an Olympic gold medal. His administrative career has been less sparkling.

In 2019, the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker chose to become a special adviser to then Caf president Ahmad, but the Malagasy administrator was later banned from football for two years after being adjudged to have breached various Fifa ethics codes.

Three months after taking charge of Fecafoot in December 2021, Eto’o chose to replace coach Toni Conceicao, who guided Cameroon to a third-place finish on home soil at last year’s Nations Cup, with former team-mate Rigobert Song.

The appointment was unusual in that it was said to have been made on “very high instructions” from Cameroon president Paul Biya, despite Fifa outlawing any political interference in the running of a federation.

At last year’s World Cup, which Cameroon exited in the group stage, regular goalkeeper Andre Onana was dropped following a heated row with Song, who was understood to have Eto’o’s backing.

In a statement, Fecafoot expressed “its full support” for Song, who the body said was keen on “preserving discipline, solidarity, complementarity and cohesion with the national team”, prompting Onana – a reported target for Manchester United – to leave the Indomitable Lions’ camp mid-tournament.

Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o
Samuel Eto’o played with some of the world’s best ever footballers during a trophy-laden spell with Barcelona

In June last year, the 42-year-old pleaded guilty to a $3.8m (£2.96m) tax fraud relating to his image rights while playing for Barcelona.

“I admit the facts and I am going to pay what I’m due, but let it be known that I was just a child then and that I always did what my former agent, who I considered like a father, asked me to do at that time,” Eto’o said after the ruling.

Handed a suspended 22-month prison sentence, he was issued with a fine of $1.8m (£1.4m) which is said to have taken a toll on his financial health – with reports stating he is living in a hotel in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde at Fecafoot’s expense.

‘Fecafoot on the verge of bankruptcy’

ACFAC said it had further concerns regarding the “arbitrary exclusion” of various high-ranking Fecafoot members who “criticised the opaque and very personal management” of Eto’o while also questioning an ongoing lack of transparency in Fecafoot’s financial dealings.

Late last month, it was reported Cameroon would not be sending an under-20 side to a regional tournament in DR Congo because of a lack of funds.

“ACFAC’s executive members have reached the conclusion that Fecafoot is on the verge of bankruptcy on all levels and that it is imperative to act in a bid to save what still remains of Cameroonian football,” the statement said.

By Joy

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