Cameroon: Samuel Eto’o


Written by Austin Ness in 2013
Updated and edited by Haley Amster in 2015

Forward, #29, 32 Years Old


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Samuel Eto’o is the most decorated African football player of all time, and one of the most accomplished players in the world. During his illustrious career, he has won seemingly every trophy imaginable: Italian and Spanish league titles with Inter Milan and Barcelona, two African Cup of Nations championships, three European Champions League titles, and a gold medal with the Cameroonian team in the 2000 Olympic tournament. Eto’o’s individual accomplishments as a striker are no less impressive. Since moving to Mallorca from Real Madrid in 2000, he has been one of the top goal scorers in the world. Not only has he scored in bulk (350 total over his career), but also in crucial moments and games. He contributed a goal in both of his Champions League Final triumphs with Barcelona, and scored five goals between the 2000 and 2002 Cameroon victories in the African Cup of Nations tournaments [1]. Eto’o is the all time leading scorer in the history of the African Cup of Nations, and undoubtedly is the finest player the continent has ever produced. He will play in Brazil next summer as part of the Cameroon team. However, it has been a tumultuous past couple of years for him. The one lingering criticism of Eto’o as a player is that he has an uneven temperament, and unsurprisingly he remains at the center of the controversy around the national team. After the retirement of Cameroonian legend Rigobert Song, Eto’o became the country’s most veteran player by a wide margin. He will have an enormous influence on how well Cameroon plays in Brazil, and as a result he will face scrutiny from his teammates and country on and off the field.

Samuel Eto’o began his career at the youth academy at Real Madrid in 1997, where he failed to make an impression as a player. He was subsequently loaned out to clubs CD Léganes and RCD Espanyol for the 1997-1998 and 1999-2000 seasons, respectively. His third loan was to Mallorca, and after the season ended, they bought Eto’o permanently from Real Madrid. Eto’o’s career took off in his first year belonging to the club, and he scored 13 goals in 33 games to earn plaudits from Mallorcan fans. He would eventually amass 69 goals in 165 games over 5 years in the club. On the eve of a Spanish Cup final, he demonstrated his goodwill towards Mallorca supporters by donating €30,000 euros for food before the game. However, his time at Mallorca was not without controversy, as a journalist accused Eto’o of threatening her in a parking lot, and Eto’o’s former agent claimed that Eto’o and four other accomplices attacked him [2]. No charges were pressed against Eto’o, but it was evident that he has a volatile personality on and off the field.

Following the 2004-2005 season at Mallorca, Eto’o transferred to Barcelona, where he refined his skills and enjoyed the most successful part of his career. In 2009, after winning two Champions League titles at Barcelona in five seasons, he was traded to Inter Milan along with €46 million euros for Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After yet another Champions League victory at Inter over two seasons, he was sold to Anzi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League, where he became the highest paid player in the world. Eto’o made his last move to Chelsea in the English Premier League in 2013, reuniting with his former Inter manager Jose Mourinho [3].


During his years spent at Barcelona and Inter, rumors and news of uneasy relationships between him, his coaches, and teammates were ever present, especially with Ronaldinho, Frank Rijkaard, and Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. Additionally, he demonstrated poor judgement in 2005 by chanting, “Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón” (Madrid, bastards, salute the champions) during a celebration at the Nou Camp for Barcelona’s triumph in the league [4]. He was subsequently criticized in the press, and later apologized for his crass remarks. In 2008, Eto’o again made headlines by head-butting a journalist covering Cameroon’s team, breaking the man’s nose in the process [5].

As Eto’o’s career progressed, he began avoiding the controversies that once surrounded him at the club level. Conversely, his relationship with his national team and Cameroon football association has deteriorated dramatically. Before the 2010 World Cup, Eto’o was made captain of the Cameroon squad by manager Paul Le Guen. Eto’o scored two goals in three World Cup games, but reports of dissension between some of the young players and veterans, as well as poor play overall, led Cameroon to lose all three of their group games. Le Guen resigned soon after the end of the tournament [6].

*Note: To watch video, follow the link to view it on the YouTube website

From the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to present day, Eto’o and the Fédération Camerounaise de Football, or “Fecafoot” for short, have tussled over a wide variety of issues. In November 2011, Cameroon was in Morocco for a tournament when Eto’o led the team on strike. The players reportedly had not been paid bonuses or appearance fees promised to them by Fecafoot, and so they refused to travel to Algeria to play a third game. The players were also rumored to be upset with the sack of coach Javier Clemente, who had been fired following Cameroon’s failure to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations [7].

As a result of his role in leading the strike, Eto’o was suspended for 15 matches by Fecafoot. This punishment was later reduced to eight months (a shorter suspension based on when games were scheduled) due to intervention from the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, as well as fans who protested the original ban and boycotted the national team’s games [8]. In September 2012, when the ban had officially been lifted, Eto’o refused to play once more, despite being called up for a World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde, claiming that, “the shortcomings [he] raised as captain had been unresolved” [9]. Prime Minister of Cameroon Philemon Yang reached out to Eto’o and eventually convinced him to return to the national team by October, seemingly ending the controversy [10].

However, the final chapter of Eto’o’s problems with the national team came late in 2013, when Eto’o was rumored to have told his teammates that he was retiring after a World Cup qualifier against Libya. Cameroonian football legend Roger Milla speculated that the retirement was, “not a haphazard move”, and that, “it is a strong signal he is once again sending to the authorities” [11]. On the verge of the first game of a crucial two-leg playoff against Tunisia that would send the victor to the World Cup, Eto’o reversed his decision and started in a 0-0 draw. The strangest twist in this entire saga, however, came before the second game, when Eto’o stressed the need for team unity while alleging that teammates had conspired to not pass to him during the first game [12]. Almost all prior events over the past three years had supported the view that Eto’o was making a stand against Fecafoot for rational, just reasons. These revelations, however, suggested that there was more to the story than the public was aware of, if the entire team plotted to completely ignore their captain in such an important game.


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There is no doubt that Samuel Eto’o is one of the finest players of his generation. There is very little that can realistically occur next summer in Brazil to affect Eto’o’s legacy as a player. Off the field, Eto’o’s hot temperament seems to have cooled off with age. His actions during his time in Mallorca and Barcelona are inexcusable, but he has avoided similar mistakes as he has matured. Additionally, Eto’o has contributed significant portions of his wealth to charity and he established the Foundacion Privada Samuel Eto’o in 2006 to provide basic healthcare to people in need in Cameroon [13].

Looking ahead to next summer, Cameroon has a talented squad, and could potentially advance out of their group of Mexico, Croatia, and Brazil. Once again, the success of the team will depend on Eto’o performances on the field. He will be especially keen to prove that he’s not far past his prime as a player; critics were quick to suggest that his move to Russia may have been motivated by money rather than pursuit of competition, and although he’s now back in the English Premier League, Eto’o has only scored 4 goals in 12 appearances thus far. However, controversy will always be a threat to derail the team, and as captain, talisman, and center of attention, Eto’o will be sure to remain in the spotlight. In this regard, his attitude and actions off the field will be equally important to Cameroon’s fortunes as his play during the games.


Cameroon only had three matches during the 2014 World Cup, as they did not advance out of Group A. In their first game, against Mexico, Cameroon lost 0-1. Eto’o took a shot at the goal, but the ball hit the post and went wide. That was essentially the extent of Eto’o’s action during the World Cup. In the match against Croatia, Cameroon lost 0-4 with a red card against one of the Cameroonian players, and Eto’o remained quiet during the game. The next game was against Brazil, where Cameroon lost 1-4, and Eto’o again was not in the spotlight[14]. Thus, his World Cup performance, as well as the performance of the rest of the Cameroonian team, left much to be desired.

Now, Eto’o has just recently been sent from Everton to instead play for Sampdoria. However, there is already controversy. After losing terribly to Torino, the coach called a double training session as punishment. Eto’o walked out halfway through the session, without explanation. It is reported, however, that Eto’o is still staying with Sampdoria and that it was just a minor disagreement [15]. Plus, it’s not Eto’o if there isn’t some controversy. It isn’t clear yet how impactful he will be with this team, and only time will tell.

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Continue on to Group A – Croatia: Darijo Srna

Group A – Brazil: Neymar

Group A – Mexico: Javier Hernández

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Learn about Cameroon’s National Anthem


How to cite this article: “Cameroon: Samuel Eto’o” Written by Austin Ness (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).


Works Cited:

[1] “Samuel Eto’o.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2015. <>
[2] Minshull, Phill. “Eto’o fever grips Mallorca.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 13 May 2003. Web. 3 Dec 2013. <>.
[3] “Samuel Eto’o.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2015. <>
[4] “Eto’o apologises for outburst.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 16 May 2005. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <>.
[5] “Eto’o apologises for head butt.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 05 Jun 2008. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <>.
[6] “World Cup 2010: Cameroon players revolt against Paul Le Guen.” 18 Jun 2010: n. page. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <>.
[7] “Cameroon players ‘refuse to pla’y in dispute over money.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 15 Nov 2011. Web. 3 Dec 2013. <>.
[8] “Fecafoot slashes Samuel Eto’o ban to eight months.”BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 07 Jan 2012. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <>.
[9] Bongben, Leocadia. “Samuel Eto’o refuses to play for Cameroon in protest.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p.. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <>.
[10] “Eto’o reconciles with Cameroon national team for Cape Verde clash.” N.p., 02 Oct 2012. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <>.
[11] “Milla: Eto’o unhappy with authorities.” N.p., 10 Sep 2013. Web. 10 Dec 2013. <>.
[12] Bongben, Leocadia. “World Cup 2014: Eto’o urges Cameroon set-up to unite.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 14 Nov 2013. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <>.
[13] Masters, James, and Cuadrado Patrick. “Samuel Eto.” N.p., 14 Sep 2013. Web. 11 Dec 2013. <>.
[14] “2014 FIFA World Cup™ – Teams – Cameroon –” N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015. <>
[15] MailOnline, Rory Keane for. “Samuel Eto’o Staying Put at Sampdoria, Says Club President after Striker Walked out of Training on Monday .” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 03 Feb. 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2015<>

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