A group representing amateur clubs in Cameroon has called on legendary former player Samuel Eto’o to step down as president of the country’s football federation, citing “serious irregularities” in the organisation.
Last week, the Association of Cameroon Amateur Clubs (ACFAC) voted 11-1 to ask the four-time African Footballer of the Year to step down.
It said the 42-year-old, who played for several of Europe’s top clubs, should step down “if he still loves Cameroonian football as he has always claimed”.
ACFAC called on 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 term from four to seven years was both anti-legislative and illegal. It also highlighted the lack of publication of new bylaws adopted last August.
There were also questions to be answered, it was said, about Eto’o’s decision to take an ambassadorial role with a sports betting company, which could be in breach of both Fifa and Fecafoot rules.
Fifa says people bound by its code “shall be prohibited from participating, either directly or indirectly, in betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions related to football matches or competitions and/or related football activities”.
Football’s world governing body lists a sanction of either a fine or a ban from football for any breach of its code of ethics regarding links to betting and gambling, with any “direct or indirect financial interest” prohibited. It is unclear whether Eto’o personally benefits from his involvement with the company.
At the end of June, top 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 an agreement with the same betting company to sponsor both the men’s and women’s national teams as well as the top two divisions in the country’s football league.
In a statement issued at the timethe federation said the deal had been agreed in accordance with all codes of ethics and was further evidence of Eto’o’s desire to “modernise” Cameroonian football.
ACFAC also claimed in its statement that unnamed individuals in Fecafoot are rigging matches in order to bet on their results.
The BBC invited Fecafoot to comment on the nature of ACFAC’s allegations about the organization and its president, but has received no response.
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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 exuberant.
In 2019, the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker opted to become a special adviser to then-Caf president Ahmad, but the Malagasy administrator was later banned from football for two years after being convicted of breaching various Fifa ethical rules.
Three months after taking charge of Fecafoot in December 2021, Eto’o opted to replace coach Toni Conceicao, who guided Cameroon to a third-place finish on home soil at last year’s Nations Cup, with former teammate Rigobert Song.
The appointment was unusual in that it was said to have been made on “very high instructions” from Cameroonian President Paul Biya, despite Fifa banning any political interference in the running of a federation.
At last year’s World Cup, which Cameroon exited at the group stage, regular goalkeeper Andre Onana was dropped after a heated argument with Song, who was believed to have Eto’o’s backing.
In a statement, Fecafoot expressed “its full support” to Song, who the body said was keen to “maintain discipline, solidarity, complementarity and cohesion with the national team”, prompting Onana – a reported Manchester United target – to leave the Indomitable Lions’ camp in the middle of the tournament.
Last June, the 42-year-old pleaded guilty to a $3.8m (£2.96m) tax fraud related to his image rights while playing for Barcelona.
“I admit the facts and I will pay what I have to, but let it be known that I was only a child then and that I always did what my former agent, whom I considered a father, asked me to do do at that time,” Eto’o said after the ruling.
Sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of 22 months, he was issued with a fine of 1.8 million. USD (£1.4m) which is said to have affected his financial health – with reports that he is staying in a hotel in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde at Fecafoot’s expense.
‘Fecafoot on the brink of bankruptcy’
ACFAC said it had further concerns regarding the “arbitrary exclusion” of various senior Fecafoot members who “criticized the opaque and highly personal leadership” of Eto’o, while also questioning a continuing lack of transparency in Fecafoot’s financial transactions.
At the end of last month, it was reported that Cameroon would not send an under-20 team to a regional tournament in DR Congo due to a lack of funds.
“ACFAC management members have come to the conclusion that Fecafoot is on the brink of bankruptcy at all levels and that it is imperative to act in an attempt to save what is still left of Cameroonian football,” it said the statement.