Samuel Eto'o had promised that this World Cup would be that of Africa. Was he too populist, naive or was he just provocative?
He had bet on a Cameroon-Morocco final. Samuel Eto'o, the former Indomitable Lion, felt a few weeks ago that "African teams have great potential, have acquired more and more experience, and they are ready to win the World Cup ". The new boss of the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) even assured that Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana would reach the knockout stages of the World Cup.
A month after his predictions, it is clear that the ex-Barcelonian was wrong. Cameroon did not even pass the group stages, despite a great victory against Brazil. The Lions failed to tame Switzerland, who stole their place. As for Tunisia and Ghana, they did no better. Only Senegal and Morocco managed to get out of their respective pools.
Senegal did not march on England
But there again, Eto'o went a little too far... Before the Teranga Lions match against England, Eto'o recalled "that England have never been European champions and face the champions from Africa… I remember that the only World Cup she won was in 1966 with 16 teams and a disputed goal in extra time. I also remind you that in this match, there is only one world-class defensive captain and that is Koulibaly. (…) Senegal is my favorite and will march on England”. Result, England beat the Senegalese… 3 to 0.
While waiting to know if Morocco will do better against Spain and save the honor of Africa, it is already time for the first assessment for the continent. And this one is negative. What contradict the optimism of Samuel Eto'o. Has the Cameroonian football boss overdone it? Was his speech too optimistic or is the president of Fecafoot too naive?
For observers, this excessive optimism is part of the character. Journalist and trade unionist Adolarc Lamissia has always believed that Samuel Eto'o "surfs on emotional populism". He recalls in particular the chat of Eto'o with his players. After a match against Burundi, he harangued the Indomitable Lions and asked them: “Be happy. Because when you are happy, we are much happier”. A “populist discourse”, for the journalist, who deplores the scripting of the scene. For Dieudonné Essomba, Samuel Eto'o's behavior is "bordering on magico-religious". He too sees in it a good dose of populism, which hides the poor management of several files, including that of the Cameroonian equipment supplier.
Populism that fills gaps?
Because when he expresses himself in a more serene way, Samuel Eto'o seems to be more in the truth than in the show or the provocation. In a TV interview, he felt that there is a lack of patience in Africa and that “it takes more than money, it takes ideas and a vision” to develop African football. A speech far from that which consisted in announcing a future African world champion.
So why have such speeches if we think the opposite? For the Cameroonian columnist Parfait Mbvoum, this is, for Eto'o, to fill a lack of knowledge on issues a little more complex than it seems. “Samuel Eto'o's team is going into populism. (…) Business is not celebrity. Business is not about being a star. Business is business. They have rules. They must be respected, ”he says, speaking of the Fecafoot-Le Coq Sportif affair.
A relative of the federation, however, tempers the comments of each other: “Yes, Eto'o adds tons when he speaks. But it's also a way to give hope to the supporters,” he said. Still, for an opponent of the former Indomitable Lion, if he offers improbable speeches, Eto'o should be more thoughtful in his actions. “He is still naive. We don't manage a federation like we manage a football team”.