Tag Archive: samuel eto’o


Samuel Eto’o has announced that he is retiring from international football barely a few days after he was left out of a new look Cameroon squad and replaced as captain ahead of two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.

“I wish to inform you that I hereby put an end to my international career. On this occasion, I wish to thank all Africans in particular and all my fans to around for their love and support,” a statement on the player’s Official Facebook page said on Thursday.

Eto’o who  joined English Premiership side Everton on a free transfer this week made his debut for Cameroon in an international friendly against Costa Rica in 1997. He was the youngest player to feature the World Cup in France in 1998. His big break on the international scene, however, came in the 2000 Africa Nations Cup when he starred alongside Patrick Mboma in the forward line of Cameroon’s title winning

Samuel Eto'o at a press conference in Dakar

Samuel Eto’o has said his final goodbye to the Indomitable Lions?

team.

He was part of the team that won an Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney in 2000 and went on to win a second Africa Cup in a row (Cameroon’s fourth) in 2002.

While he remains Cameroon’s all time best scorer at national team level, he continually faced criticism that despite his individual success (he is a four times African Player of the Year) and the trophies he won at club level in Europe (he won several Spanish league titles with FC Barcelona, two European Champions League trophies with the Catalan giants before adding a third with the Italian side Inter Milan) Cameroon stagnated at international level.

Troublesome Genius

He was often accused of fomenting trouble in the Cameroon dressing room, clashing with his team-mates, coaches and the country’s football authorities. Some suggested that he was the main protagonist in the row over World Cup participation premiums which led to Cameroon players refusing to board a flight to the World Cup in Brazil.

Although the Cameroon coach Volker Finke attributed his decision to leave Eto’o out of the squad to rejuvenation of the squad and also because the player had no club (at the time the squad was named), several Insiders felt the striker was paying the price for his role in that pre-World Cup farce and the disastrous campaign that followed.

Eto’o had in the past been suspended from the team for leading a player strike in 2012 when the Lions refused to play a friendly against Algeria over a row related to participation premiums.

Notwithstanding his rumored negative spots, Eto’o remained a real talisman for the Cameroon team and possibly the country’s most talented player at the moment. He will be missed by Cameroon, not for the goals he scored but more for his playmaking ability which were more apparent when he played for the national side.

In fact, he was rarely used as a central striker by most coaches from 2004, often deployed to the left or right of a three-man attack or as a playmaker behind the main striker.

It is the second time that Eto’o looks set to abandon the national colors. The difference this time though is that he made a formal announcement which wasn’t the case in late 2013 when it was rumored that he quit the selection.

He will be replaced as national team captain by Stephane Mbia who was appointed by the Cameroon minister for sport on Monday. Eric Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar were named vice-captains.

Meanwhile, veteran Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun has also announced his retirement from international football. He had also been left out of the squad as Cameroon tries to rebuild after two humiliating World Cup participations in 2010 and 2014 and failing to qualify for the last two Africa. Cup of Nations tournaments.

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Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions play their first competitive fixture under new manager, Volker Finke, on Sunday against the Sparrow-hawks of Togo. The German-born trainer has been working with his squad in Yaoundé since they returned from Kiev where they played a goalless tie with hosts Ukraine in an international friendly on 2 June.

Here are three (3) aspects of Finke’s football philosophy that we should be watching out for come Sunday afternoon:

  1. A High Pressing Game

Volker Finke is known in Germany as one of the leading lights of the high pressing game which he instigated and sustained during his 16-year tenure at SC Frieburg. A lot of Germany’s current crop of coaches including Jurgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund, Joachim Löw (the German national team coach) and Ralf Rangnick are recognised as following in Finke’s footsteps.

British football writer Jonathan Wilson wrote recently in the Guardian about Finke’s approach:

At Freiburg, Finke became noted as a pioneer of pressing in Germany – which was oddly late to adopt the practice – and achieved notable success with a small budget as a result. Whether he will have the time to instil a similar style of play at Cameroon is doubtful, appealing though the idea of them becoming the Chile of Africa may be, but he will at least be tactically imaginative.

Finke is so keen about high pressing, quick passing and movement that he has specific  training drills as he described here during his time as coach at Urawa Diamonds in Japan:

That was training for players to learn how to approach various types of situation during the game. For example, when players lose their ball, types of approaches the team should take and in what timing they should start giving pressure change depending on where they lose their ball such as center or side. As such, I decided that the team lost their ball where the player whose name I called was standing. Players then had to figure out how they give pressure as a team and who takes the initial approach. It was training taking real match situations into consideration. It might have seemed as a new type of training. By having more and more of these kinds of training sessions, I believe that the team will be able to improve to perfection level….

He continued:

…I can say that pressing does not necessary start from a player who is closest to the ball. This is because there are many different types of situations during matches. In some cases, no pressing is done or other players start the pressing. Being able to make the right kind of move at the right timing regardless whether there is a ball or not is part of the talent. I consider this as one of the exceptional abilities. Even when players train themselves seriously for several months with a very professional attitude, some may not be able to get it completely right. Making the right decision according to the given situation and play for the team is one of the important elements as well as a talent. When a player is truly gifted, he often has an excellent strategic mind as well.

2. Fluid Tactical Options

I didn’t watch the Cameroon’s game against Ukraine last week and had to rely on match reports from on-line Cameronian media. Each one seems to have seen their own formation. There were those who thought Finke played a 4-3-3 while others said the team played a 4-2-3-1 formation.  We may come to expect more of that from the Lions Den. Rather than sticking to a single plan Finke works by adjusting the formation to the demands of the game and opposition he faces.  The key aspect is to build carefully and break with speed and accuracy.

Finke once said:

It’s boring to switch flanks and knock the ball from one wing to the other. We build through the middle, where there is little space. You play three or four short passes to lure the defense into what they think is the danger zone. And then you suddenly open up the game over the flanks – that’s what is really dangerous.

The key for him is playing beautiful attacking football as reported in this post in The Hard Tackle:

Finke helped a lowly regarded team with limited quality resources to qualify for Bundesliga’s top tier and managed them to finish third in the next season with his version of concept football – a thoroughly drilled, collective movement at a high tempo. During that time Freiburg were known as Breisgau Brazilians for their wonderfully pleasing and technically superior style of football that saw them pass the ball both artfully and precisely.

3. Focus on the Team and not Individuals:

Cameroon football forums are full of discussions about the impact the  absence of the Lions’ captain and talisman Samuel Eto’o may have on the team. The level of anxiety seems to have shot-up following the draw against Ukraine in which the young strikers reportedly failed to impress. Finke believes in team work rather than individuals. It is up to those who would be given the chance to play in the absence of Eto’o to give it their best shot as a team for Cameroon. Here’s a popular quote from Finke that could help calm the nerves of some fans:

“I don’t want team leaders. That’s a line of thinking that buries other players’ strengths. Our playing system does not depend on the individual.”

Will Finke’s ideals work with Cameroon – a team so used to playing deep and soaking up pressure to strike via counter-attacks? Does he have the players to match his philosophy and work ethic?  It would be too much to expect magic on Sunday but hopefully we could have a glimpse of the new Cameroon.

Cameroon’s national soccer team the Indomitable Lions must defeat the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde by at least three clear goals on Sunday to obtain a ticket to  South Africa for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Cape Verde beat Cameroon  2-0 last month in the first-leg encounter.

The thought of missing a second AFCON in a row has led to desperate moves from the government, football officials and fans.  Authorities sacked the French-born coach who was in-charge of the team and installed Jean Paul Akono barely days after the defeat. Akono then pushed authorities to convince the team captain Samuel Eto’o to return to the squad after he suspended his international career last month.

He  picked several players who featured during his spells as head coach of the U-23 (Olympic) Lions and the senior Indomitable Lions between 2000 and 2004.  Achille Webo, Modeste Mbami, Pierre Wome, Jean Makoun, Angbwa Ossomeyong have not been in the den for a while but the Olympic Gold Medal winning coach thinks their experience will be a deciding factor in the weekend’s duel. The media thinks it is a sign of desperation.

Who knows? The coach may be banking on the views of Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century British Prime Minister, novelist and bon viveur who once said that “desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.”  Cameroon’s fortunes depend on Akono’s tactical genius.

Akono favours playing a high defensive line with  attackers and midfielders who harry and press opponents throughout the game. Can his “experienced players”  have the energy and fitness levels required for this?

According to reporters who have observed the team train all week, particularly the practice match against local (division 3) side  on Wednesday, the coach is plotting a flat 4-4-2 formation. He has regularly started with Idris Kameni as goalkeeper,  Angbwa as rightback and Wome as leftback; a very young central defence partnership of Guy Armel Kana Biyick and Nicolas Nkoulou. He has played with Alex Song, Jean Makoun, Idrissou and Mevoungou in midfield while Achille Emana or Eto’o and Webo have played as strikers.

MIDFIELD DIAMOND

On the overall scheme of things, Akono seems to be respecting his promise to set-up an attack-minded team (they beat the local side 5-1).  But a few things seem unclear, though. Is he playing an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with a double-pivot (of Makoun and Song) in central midfield and traditional wingers? Who are the wingers? Idrissou can put a shift on the left but his crossing is awful (he’s a striker) while  Mevoungou and Emana don’t enjoy playing on the flanks. How he tackles the issue would determine the attacking flow of the game.

If Cameroon must play a 4-4-2 formation,  I believe they are more suited to operate with a ‘diamond’  midfield due to the lack of true wingers among the current crop of players. They have hardworking midfielders to intercept (break-down) moves by opponents and shuttle from box-to-box. They also have relatively good  fullbacks who can  overlap to provide width rather than forcing reluctant central midfielders and  strikers into becoming the wingers.

For instance, they could start with:  Kameni (gk) – Allan Nyom or Angbwa (RB) and Wome (LB); Kana-Biyick (CB) Nkoulou (CB) in defence.  A midfield diamond with  either Alex Song or Joel Matip sat deep in space in-front of the back-four, Makoun a little ahead  to the left, Mevoungou or higher up on the right and Overtoom  at the tip of the diamond, behind Eto’o  or Achille Emana and Webo.

However they choose to play (and I won’t be surprised to see them playing a 3-5-2 formation with Kana, Nkoulou, Chedjou or Matip at the back) it won’t be a ride in the park. Cape Verde have been training as well and are so good that they outplayed Cameroon in Praia.

Cameroon have been down this road before. Eight veteran Lions visited the current pride to share their experience of backs-to-the-wall games. Roger Milla (CAF African Player of the 20th Century), Joseph Antoine Bell (1984 & 1988 AFCON winner), Theophile Abega (1984 AFCON winning captain), Bonaventure Njonkep (1984 AFCON winner) and Victor Ndi Akem, Eugene Ekeke and Thomas Libih (1990 World Cup quarter-finalists) sought to pass on the indomitable spirit of the past.

But what will be the story by 6p.m. on Sunday? Will fans be celebrating as wildly as they did on 10th October 1993 after Cameroon defeated Zimbabwe 3-1 to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.?  Will Eto’o and Webo be weeping inconsolably on the turf of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium as they did after the  Lions drew 1-1 with Egypt on 8th October 2005 and failed to reach the 2006  World Cup in Germany?

CORRECTED: Paragraph 12 to indicate that the player supposed to mark the Libyan who scored was Yannick Ndjeng and not Mbuta Andongcho.  And Paragraph 14 to take off a similar reference to Andongcho.

Libya’s Ahmed Osman headed in a corner at the very last minute (90′+3) to give his country victory over Cameroon in African zonal qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Libyan’s had taken an early lead through Ahmed Zouay  who beat goalkeeper Carlos Kameni with a powerful header barely 8 minutes into the game. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting scored Cameroon’s only goal from a powerful free-kick at the edge of the 18-yard area. But he could not save Cameroon this time around…

Cameroon coach Denis Lavagne supervising training – has he got things wrong?
Picture credit: Linus Pascal Fouda (Team Press Officer)

It was becoming the new routine: Cameroon would play badly, unable to create opportunities but win through a goal by Choupo-Moting. It was the case in Guinea-Bissau and versus the Democratic Republic of Congo in Yaounde. The head coach Denis Lavagne and those who back him would then claim that the most important thing is victory, regardless of how it came about. Fair enough…but many (including Gef’s Football Club) warned that many things were not right. The same points led to Sunday’s defeat in Sfax:

1. Too many defensive players, hardly any creators: Lavagne played against Libya with seven players (Nkoulou, Chedjou, Mandjeck, Bedimo, Mbia, Song, Nguemo) who regularly hold defensive positions for their clubs. This is basically what he has been doing since he took over but he went one step further in Sfax where Alex Song was the player supporting the main striker in the first half. There is no denying that Song, Mbia and Ngeumo can push forward but they are hardly creators.

As indicated before on this blog, creativity here is not the technical ability to dribble, which many of the players possess. It is that science and/or art to link defence to attack with grace. It is the sharpness of mind to make a perfectly weighted killer-pass to the right man and at the right time.

In the absence of such, when in possession Cameroon spent the time passing the ball around midfield with no penetration.  This was the case against Libya, DRC and Guinea Bissau.

2. No directness and urgency: Cameroonian teams are not the fastest in the world. The game is often played at a slow tempo because of the athleticism of the players (often big and tough). Cameroon teams often rely on their power and their ability to counter-attack. However, for this work the teams are also very direct i.e. they make quick straight passes forward via midfield in order to catch the opposition off-guard (Not just lumping long balls to the big man up top).

But Lavagne’s teams have so far been ponderous in their build-up, allowing the opponents to re-organise their defensive shapes. Only Choupo-Moting has the ability to dribble in small spaces but since he was also the only one up top (to score), it was hard to break the Libyans. It was the same situation versus Guinea Bissau and DRC but the Lions were lucky that he managed to get the winning goals.

3. Mis-use of available resources (players): Why would Lavagne tell the world that Willy Overtoom who switched allegiance from Holland to Cameroon would bring that creativity (as playmaker) that the Lions lack only to keep the boy on the reserve bench for 180 minutes during which a defensive midfielder (Song) was played as a number 10? Is Overtoom not up to the hype surrounding him?

Why did Lavagne decide to play Georges Mandjeck (a central midfielder and centreback) as a right fullback when Allan Nyom – a regular right fullback was on the bench? At the end of the day, Mandjeck was in such trouble that the right forward, Benjamin Moukandjo, practically spent his whole game defending to spare Cameroon further blushes against Libya? Did the coach realise that Nyom was not up to scratch and less than the much maligned Angbwa Ossomeyong?

4. Tactics and animation: Lavagne has opted to play 4-3-3. It is his choice. However, he seemed not to know how to make the formation work for his team to move the ball from defence to attack. He started with a triangle in the middle that had Song at the tip playing as a number 10. The Arsenal man barely touched the ball and when he did he was sloppy or unimaginative. By half-time the coach reverted to the style he had used before with Stephane Mbia sweeping infront of the back-four while Alexandre Song and Landry Nguemo played slightly ahead of him – with a mission to link up with the attackers. But the final ball was ever so poor.

As much as Vincent Aboubakar and Moukandjo huffed and puffed on the flanks, they hardly ever put in a cross. Mandjeck just won’t overlap from right-back and when Bedimo did so on the left, his final ball was not good enough, giving the Libyans (like the Congolese before) the opportunity to launch quick counter-attacks. If the Libyans had been a better side, the defeat would have been heavier for Cameroon.

5. Bad defending of set pieces: Both Libyan goals were scored from set-plays. Given the athleticism of the Cameroon team – that should not happen. In the corner that led to the Libya winner, it was Yannick Ndjeng who was left defending the big Libyan, Osman, who beat Kameni to the ball and scored. In what looked like a poor mastery of zonal marking, Zouay was completely free to head-in the curtain raiser.

Not only are the Lions bad at defending set pieces, they just do not have anyone to take good free-kicks and corners. Apart from Choupo’s effort that led to the equaliser, every other free-kick and corner was squandered by the team – Landry Ngeumo being the main culprit.

6. A coach lacking personality and guts: Denis Lavagne talks a lot in the media about how he would confound those who doubt his abilities. It’s about time he starts showing the same purpose and guts in his team choices and the way he manages the team. He seems to be more concerned about not losing, than he is focused on winning. He looks lost on the touchline and (apart from the move to have the team play 4-2-3-1 after Nguemo’s injury in Yaounde towards the end of the DRC game) unable to make tactical switches.  He makes the same changes all the time (Salli coming in) regardless of the context.

It’s unclear if he is the boss or he has handed over his duties to Rigobert Song the team (logistics) manager. Lavagne also appears to be overawed by the big names and personalities in the squad he is supposed to be “re-building” i.e. unable to substitute Mbia, Song, etc even when they are having a bad game. If he can’t handle such players- what would happen if/when Samuel Eto’o returns?

These are just a few things which caused defeat from Cameroon’s perspective. But take nothing away from the Libyans. They not only showed heart and determination but also displayed tactical savvy as well as good technical quality in the periods when they outplayed Cameroon in midfield. Their victory is well-deserved.

Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o scored twice for his Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in a 3-1 defeat of Lokomotiv Moscow which takes Anzhi to fifth place in the league with 66 points and keeps their dreams of playing in European club tournaments next season.

The fifth spot gives Anzhi the right to play the UEFA Europa league next season but the club could, mathematically, still qualify for the UEFA Champions League, as only 3 points separate them from Dinamo Moscow that is second on the standings with 69 points, with three games left to play  this season.

Anzhi, currently managed by Dutch tactician Guus Hiddink, struggled in the beginning of the final phase of the Russian league and were unable to directly compete for the title that was clinched this weekend by Zenit Petersburg.

Hiddink said his team had been fine-tuning their attacking actions for weeks and Saturday’s victory was the outcome of their homework, Fifa.com reported.

Anzhi’s captain, Eto’o, seems to have benefitted from all that training as he was involved in all of Anzhi’s three goals (Click here to watch goals) described below by Fifa.com:

“Anzhi clinched the lead in the 25th minute, when Lokomotiv defender Taras Burlak sent the ball into his own net in an attempt to clear Samuel Eto’o’s right-handed cross. Six minutes later Lokomotiv captain Denis Glushakov levelled firing home from just inside the area after an Anzhi mix-up in defence.

But Eto’o netted Anzhi’s winning goal in the 64th minute, sending the ball into the net with a sharp-angled shot despite the physical presence of two Lokomotiv defenders. The Cameroonian star rounded off the scoring in injury time with his 11th goal this season, with a close-range shot.”

Denis Lavagne, the head coach of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, has named a 22-man squad expected to travel to Guinea Bissau at the end of February for an Africa Cup of Nations 2013 qualifier.

Could Choupo-Moting (L) or Stephane Mbia (R) become Cameroon's media punta or regista?

Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s absence from the list has sparked debate, which is logical given the defender’s performances at Tottenham Hotspur. However, the absence of creativity in the squad requires greater attention.

Creativity here is not the technical ability to dribble, which many of the players possess. It is that science and/or art to link defence to attack with grace. It is the sharpness of mind to make a perfectly weighted killer-pass to the right man and at the right time.

That could be delivered by a variety of players. There is the trequartista – an advanced playmaker who plays centrally between the opposition’s defence and attack, very similar to the engache (Argentine variant) like Juan Riquelme (normally referred to as a “number 10”).  There is the regista – often a deep-lying playmaker like the Italian Andrea Pirlo and more recently Paul Scholes for Manchester United.

Then there is the media-punta – the player who links the midfield organisers and the attack. That is what the likes of Cesc Fabregras, Lionel Messi, and Iniesta do for FC Barcelona and David Silva does for Manchester City.

Creative players give an extra dimension to their teams. They carve openings in the most water-tight defences, they switch the direction of play, dictate the rhythm of a game via their accurate long and short passing.  Who does that for Cameroon?

DEFENDERS

Of the 22 players selected for the Bissau game, at least eleven have consistently played as defenders this season: Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille, France), Stephane Mbia (Marseille, France), Aurelien Chedjou (Lille, France), Jean Armel Kana Biyik (Rennes, France), Henri Bedimo (Montpellier, France), Dany Nounkeu (Gaziantespor, Turkey), Gaetan Bong (Valenciennes, France) and Allan Nyom (Granada, Spain), Joel Matip (Schalk 04, Germany), Georges Mandjeck (Auxerre, France).

A further two: Alexandre Song (Arsenal, England) and Landry Ngeumo (Bordeaux, France) have been employed as holding midfielders (a role which Matip, Mbia, and Mandjeck have also held).

Lavagne fielded a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield trio of Nguemo, Song and Enoh Eyong during the LG Cup in Morocco last November. Nguemo and Song looked like the organisers, surging forward to support the attack. They played their hearts out and the team beat Sudan 3-1 and Morocco on penalties after a 1-1 draw.That could possibly be enough versus Bissau.

But, as seen during the World Cup in South Africa where Paul Le Guen used midfield combinations of Makoun, Nguemo, Enoh or Matip – expecting creativity from players who are often defenders or holding midfielders could end up in total fiasco when faced with teams that are solid and compact.

The absence of creative, organising talent  has dogged Cameroon football for many years and certainly goes beyond the game versus Bissau. Lavagne’s predecessors such as Winfried Schaffer, Arthur Jorge, Jules Nyongha, Otto Pfister and Paul Le Guen devised various stratagems to overcome this challenge.

Schaffer designed systems that employed the late Marc Vivien Foe as a regista and on some occasions a hard running box-to-box midfielder.

Arthur Jorge re-shaped the team into a 4-3-3 using former wingers Salomon Olembe and Ngom Kome in central midfield behind the threesome of Samuel Eto’o, Achille Webo and Rudolph Douala. He finished his tenure by using a 4-2-3-1 with Eto’o having a free role “in the hole” behind the lone forward.

Jules Nyongha used a 4-4-2 system with double pivot – usually any two of Stephane Mbia, Landry Nguemo, Jean Makoun and Achille Emana – with each taking turns to attack and defend.

Lavagne must be thinking about this hence talk of switching the FIFA nationality of the attacking midfielder  Willie Overtoom who was born in Cameroon but has represented Holland at youth level. Playing one of Chedjou, Matip, and Mbia as a regista and/or moulding the talented Choupo-Moting as a media-punta or a trequartista are other options to consider.

DEVELOPMENT

However, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) and/or the national technical directorate need to restructure things from the roots by developing programmes that insist on producing creative young players (in addition to the physical aspects of the game).

As kids growing up in Yaounde, one needed what was called “condi” or “condition” (physical fitness) to be picked in games. Those of us whose physique was not developed to “jam-lock” (basically bulldoze past opponents) were left on the sidelines.

This became even more systematic with the boom of football academies, which are basically incubators of the template for African players needed by Europe-based teams i.e strong, big, tall, quick with enough technique to control the ball.

That mentality has to change.  Simply overpowering opponents with athleticism and counter-attack based football has its limits. P.E. teachers, trainers at soccer academies and club coaches must work on intelligent runs, technique and decision-making for the right pass.

Theophile Abega, Gregoire Mbida, Jean Tokoto, Roger Milla and Louis Paul Mfede could do that and they were also Cameroonians, which means it is possible to have such players.

Meanwhile, here is the squad as published on the Fecafoot website:

1. Nkoulou Nicolas (Olympique de Marseille – France)
2. Aboubakar Vincent (AS Valenciennes – France)
3. Bedimo Henri (Montpellier – France)
4. Bienvenu Henri Ntsama (Fenerbache – France)
5. Bong Gaetan (Valenciennes – France)
6. Chedjou Aurelien (Lille – France)
7. Choupo Moting Eric (Mayence – Allemagne)
8. Feudjou Aurelien (Cotonsport – Cameroun)
9. Kameni Carlos Idriss (Malaga – Espagne
10. Kana Biyik Jean Armel (Rennes – France)
11. Kweuke Leonard (Sparta – Rép. Tchèque)
12. Mandjeck Georges (Auxerre – France)
13. Matip Joel (Schalke 04 – Allemagne )
14. Moukandjo Benjamin (AS Nancy – France)
15. Ndy Assembe Guy (AS Nancy – France)
16. Nguemo Landry (Bordeaux – France)
17. Nounkeu Dany (Gaziantespor – Turquie)
18. Nyom Allan (Grenade – Espagne )
19. Salli Edgar (Monaco – France)
20. Song Alexandre (Arsenal – Angleterre)
21. Zoua Jacques (Bale – Suisse)
22. Mbia Stéphane (Marseille – France)

**This article has been amended (in paragraphs 16 & 17)  to include a AFC as the footballers’ association suspended by Fecafoot.

Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot) has revised disciplinary sanctions it handed to the country’s national team captain, Samuel Eto’o  and two other players, the body said in a statement issued after an executive committee meeting that also appointed former Indomitable Lions skipper, Rigobert Song, as team manager.

Eto’o saw a 15-match ban, for inciting his teammates to boycott an international friendly against Algeria last November, revised to an eight-month suspension. He would miss Cameroon’s matches until August. The original decision would have seen him out of the Indomitable Lions fold for at least two years.

“Mr Samuel Eto’o Fils is a world famous athlete who has rendered outstanding service to Cameroon’s national teams…He could still offer useful services to the men’s senior national football team in upcoming competitions,” Fecafoot said.

The decision to reconsider (reduce but not scrap) the sanction, although the player did not appeal, was taken for the good of the game while reaffirming the importance of  respecting institutions, authorities, set rules and regulations, the federation explained.

Earlier in the week the Federation refuted allegations that Cameroon’s President Paul Biya had ordered that the sanctions be reduced.

The Federation also reconsidered the situation of deputy captain Enoh Eyong Takang.  The Ajax Amsterdam midfielder had been handed a two-game ban for his role in the November player strike. He will now be suspended for two months, which would mean a one-match ban at the most.

Fecafoot, which has not clarified if the revised suspensions take effect as from January or from the date of the initial sanctions (in December), also rescinded the 1 million FCFA ($2000) fine they initially imposed on left fullback Benoit Assou-Ekotto for not respecting a call-up in November.

SONG IN
Meanwhile, the Federation appointed a former captain, Rigobert Song, as Team Manager. He replaces Martin Etonge who was bizzarely dropped last June. That means Song is not the “coordinator of national teams,” a post that had been promised and finally not (created nor) given to another former international, Patrick Mboma.
Although many fans and the media hail the inclusion of a former player (and iconic captain) in the national team management, suspicion is rife that his appointment is a divide and rule tactic from a spineless federation, which seems unable to control Eto’o’s perceived influence over the team.
“(…) Rigobert Song would certainly limit Samuel Eto’o’s power over the team. Eto’o has a lot of influence over the players,” a Fecafoot board member told Camfoot.com.
Song left the national team in acrimonious circumstances after he was stripped of his captaincy by former head coach Paul Le Guen in favour of Eto’o. A good number of the players remained faithful to him leading to a massive split in the dressing room that affected Cameroon’s performances at the 2010 Africa Cup and World Cup competitions.
However, there are many in the Federation who hope that Song would be the link between the players and officials. He is expected to create opportunities for dialogue, which was impossible during the November Crisis, when players refused to travel to Algeria.
MAYEBI OUT
The Federation has also instructed all national team players to forward their bank account details to Fecafoot so that their match bonuses be transferred directly to them, in a bid to improve management.
Match bonuses are currently paid in cash.  This contributed to fester the row over appearance bonuses which ended with players refusing to play against Algeria.  Authorities claimed they had not travelled with sufficient liquidity to pay that particular bonus.
Such archaic managerial routines were widely criticised by the public that felt Fecafoot and its officials were also at fault in the events that led to the failed friendly. This increased a feeling of injustice among fans of the  suspended players.
Some of the worst criticism of the disciplinary sanctions came from within Fecafoot – in the shape of one of it’s vice-presidents, David Mayebi, who as head of the Cameroon Footballers’ Association (AFC), told local TV stations in December that the punishments meted out to Eto’o, Enoh and Assou-Ekotto were unjust.
Fecafoot executive committee has now suspended  David Mayebi, as well as AFC, in a move seen as retribution for openly giving support to the players against the federation.

Cameroon’s national soccer team captain, Samuel Eto’o has been handed a fifteen match ban for inciting his teammates to revolt against how the team is managed. The players refused to travel to Algeria for a friendly game, in what the Anzhi striker described as a protest action along the lines of the “Arab Spring” revolutions that led to the fall of the Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) said in a statement on Friday.

Samuel Eto'o at a press conference in Dakar

Samuel Eto'o incited his team mates to revolt says Fecafoot

Eto’o told a disciplinary hearing on Monday 12 December that incompetence, dishonesty and injustice were the hallmarks of football managers in Cameroon. He said the players were treated like “kids” and their refusal to play against Algeria was a sign of protest against this state of affairs.

The players who were in Marrakech, Morocco for a friendly tournament,  had insisted that they would not travel to Algeria except authorities pay up a customary appearance fee of FCFA 500,000 each they get at every national team camp, which had not been handed them on that occasion.

Fecafoot says its officials and those of the Ministry of Sport  held several meetings with the players, particularly the captain, his deputy Enoh Eyong Takang and other senior players: Idriss Kameni, Jean Makoun and Alexandre Song but the players refused to budge.

The Federation says Eto’o failed to explain why the players refused to travel although the Algerian Federation offered to pay $30,000 once the team arrived in Algeria while the Cameroon Ministry of Sport dispatched FCFA 15 million.

DEMANDS

From the statement issued by the disciplinary council, it appears that the players, under the leadership of their captain, had made other demands which they wanted to be met.

–       The players wanted an increment in the match bonuses they are handed during friedlies

–       That the team captain be  consulted the federation signs contracts for any friendly match

–        Have the players fly in first class

–       That the captain have a copy of the federation’s contracts with its main sponsors

–       That what ever payments are made by these sponsors are given to all of the team’s staff

–       That the payment of appearance be obligatory at all friendly matches

–       That the authorities pay  a symbolic fee to the players for their participataion in the friendly game against Algeria

–       That the rate of match bonuses be reviewed (increased) ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup and 2014 Wold Cup that start next year.

“The players may have been right in their demands but their style and manner of seeking redress was bad,” a Senior Official in the Federation told me. He also  felt Eto’o and vice-captain Enoh Eyong Takang – who has been banned for two games – had slighted authorities and had to have their wings clipped.

The statement following the disciplinary hearing says Eto’o described the vice-President of Fecafoot as “Papa menteur” (a lying old man).

SOLDIERS

Apparently, Eto’o and Eyong are being punished for protesting. These are players and their role (in the words of the official who spoke to me) is to obey orders like soldiers.

The fact that the Federation and the Ministry of Sport did not agree on who was to pay the said appearance fees (an aspect that transpires in the disciplinary council’s statement) has been conveniently brushed aside.

Authorities have argued that the money finally came on the eve of the match and that the Algerians were ready to pay.  But does that absolve them from accusations of incompetence?

If it was possible to get FCFA 15 million on the eve of the game after the players threatened to boycott the game in Algeria – why had the authorities not done so earlier? Didn’t the players make present their demands at the start of the camp in Morocco?

Why, even for courtesy sake, were the players not told before that they were going to play in Algeria for free? And was it normal – for Cameroon’s image – that Algerians be called upon to pay fees which should be the duty of Cameroonian authorities?

Refusing to play a game is certainly reprehensible. In addition, some of the players’ demands (mentioned above) seem a stretch too far. However, not all the persons responsible for the fiasco have been judged or punished.

Federation officials who spent their time warning and threatening the players, are the same people who wrote reports used against the players, and are the same people who appeared as witnesses to testify against the players. What does that say about fairness and justice?

Apparently, Eto’o picked the wrong crowd to start an “Arab Spring” uprising against.

He has 10 days to appeal the verdict of the disciplinary council. However, if his 15 match ban is upheld it would mean the end to his international career. It isn’t a secret that many would love to see him gone, though. He has often been criticised for an overbearing grip on the team, staff and officials. Such a ban would also send a warning to any potential dissidents in the ranks of the Indomitable Lions.

However, it leaves a rather wealthy and popular loose cannon, who knows enough to rock the federation’s stable. This may come to haunt those who took the decision in the long run.

Football authorities in Cameroon have summoned the captain of their national football team, Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi Makhachkala) and his deputy Enoh Eyong Takang (Ajax Amsterdam), to a disciplinary hearing after the team refused to play a friendly, local media reported on Sunday.

Cameroon were due to play Algeria on Tuesday 15 Nov but the players did not travel for the game.

Cameroon authorities want Eto’o and Enoh to explain why the team basically went on strike, in what is seen by the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) and the ministry of sport as gross misconduct and a disgrace to the country’s image.

The players had issued a statement on 13 Nov saying they were not ready to play because of the non-payment of an appearance bonus (Prime de Presence) which they receive each time they  are called to camp.

By the time the sports ministry finally wired funds via a money transfer service less than 24 hours before kick-off, the players had firmly opted not to play and the game was cancelled.

The Lions didn't look convinced by what authorities were saying at this meeting in Marrakech. (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda: Team Press Officer)

BAD GOVERNANCE

Officials want to punish the players but soccer pundits in the country have come to the team’s defence.

“The problems the Lions have been facing are not due to the (in)competence of players or the coaches who succeed each other at a furious pace at the helm of this team,” wrote Cameroon Tribune, the government-run daily.

“The issue of governance (administration of the Indomitable Lions) is a major concern,” the paper said.

As an example of bad management, pundits point to the fact that the players only learnt in Morocco (where they were participating in a friendly tournament)  that FECAFOOT was not expected to make any proceeds from the  game in Algeria.

In other words, they had not been told that they were practically going to play in Algeria for free and when they asked they were rebuffed by the officials present, journalists who travelled with the team said on a television show.

It should be noted that FECAFOOT and the players have an arrangement wherein both parties split the proceeds of friendly matches.

“If they asked what they were due and were not given an answer, it is quite normal, or rather, I think they felt  it was quite normal, for their part , not to play this game,” Jean Paul Akono, the deputy national technical director, told CRTV.

“These  are professional footballers… If you do not tell them in advance that they are going to play a match without proceeds, which would surprise me, when they go to play, they expect to be paid… I doubt that there was no fee for this match against Algeria… “ added Akono, who is a former head coach of the Indomitable Lions.

An interview given by the team captain to state radio (CRTV) on Friday 11 Nov, in which he complained about poor organisation and urged the authorities to take action, shows that the players had had enough of the unprofessionalism around them, pundits say.

BLAME GAME

Fecafoot and the ministry of sport have in the days following the incident traded accusations over who was responsible for the unpaid allowances.

The ministry says it only pays the (now infamous) “participation allowance” when the team is playing a competitive fixture, suggesting that the federation should be responsible in the case of friendlies.

FECAFOOT issued a statement which suggests that these allowances are not mandatory but that they were willing to pay then once the team returned from Algeria. A federation spokesman said on local TV (Canal 2 International) that the federation did not have the funds in hand in Morocco.

Both the federation and the ministry of sport have since held crisis meetings in which they resolved to dispatch a team of officials to Algeria to apologise for the failed rendez-vous.

Meanwhile, media  reports say the Algerian football authorities have taken the Cameroon football federation (FECAFOOT)  to football’s governing body FIFA for breach of contract.

The Algerians had sold out tickets for the match and sold broadcast right to several TV stations. They want FECAFOOT to reimburse the losses they have incurred.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto has also been summoned to explain why he did not show up for the camp in Morocco.

Denis Lavagne has named Jacques Zoua of Swiss club FC Basel among the players to start for Cameroon against Sudan at the LG Cup in Morocco. It is the youngster’s first senior international cap.

Zoua, who played for Cotonsport under the stewardship of Lavagne, will be part of a three-man forward line that includes team captain Samuel Eto’o and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting.

The team is expected to start in a 4-3-3 formation with Enoh Eyong Tarkang (Ajax Amsterdam), Landry Ngeumo (Bordeaux) and Alexandre Song (Arsenal) playing in midfield. Enow is expected to play as the holding midfielder (a la Busquets for FC Barcelona) while N’guemo and Song would push further forward.

The back-four of Benoit Angbwa (Anzhi), Joel Matip (Shalke 04), Georges Mandjeck (Rennes) and Allan Nyom (Granada FC)  will be playing together for the first time and would need a lot of cover from the more experienced midfielders and goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni.

The full line-up then: Kameni; Angbwa (RB), Matip (CB), Mandjeck (CB), Nyom (LB); Nguemo (M); Enoh (M); Song (M); Zoua (FW), Eto’o (ST); Choupo-Moting (FW).

Apart from the goalkeeper, it is the team Gef’s Football Club predicted last evening. It would seem Lavagne has opted for continuity in terms of the formation used by Javier Clemente in his latter days.