Samuel Eto’o ended his career as one of the greatest African footballers of all time but it was in the city of Douala in Cameroon that he first made his name and when he left for Europe, residents continued to idolise the former Barcelona superstar. Cameroon’s economic capital is a loud and chaotic port city, hot and humid.
It is here that the country’s Indomitable Lions faced The Gambia in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) quarter-finals as Cameroon came to Douala for the first time in the tournament, having played their previous matches in Yaoundé.
Eto’o, who also starred for Inter Milan and wore the number nine for his country, moved to Douala with his family from the capital as a young boy.
He was raised in an unremarkable house on a dusty street in New Bell, an impoverished district where the locals are only too happy to talk about the man who put their neighbourhood on the map.
“He grew up here but he was blessed by God,” said Valentine, a 49-year-old caterer sheltering from the scorching mid-afternoon sun just across the street from the Eto’o family house.
“Eto’o has helped a lot of people in this neighbourhood. Recently he came back here and laid on food for everyone in New Bell.”
Just along the street is a bar where the exterior walls are decorated with pictures of the four-time African Footballer of the Year. Nearby, the motorcycle taxis that can make navigating the streets a hazardous task, pass in front of a statue of Eto’o in the green, yellow and red of Cameroon, with whom he won the AFCON in 2000 and 2002.
Eto’o was just 20 when he led the Indomitable Lions to that second continental title and it would be another two years before he signed up for Barcelona and teamed up with players including Ronaldinho and a very young Lionel Messi.
In Douala it was clear Eto’o was a special talent from a very young age.
“He was little, lively and loved football,” recalled Jean Rene Noubissi, who took Eto’o under his wing as he was starting out at local side UCB.
“He calls me his first president. I helped oversee his development. When he played for UCB, he scored goals in every game and I would give him a little bonus as a reward.
“Even then you could see the discipline he had. He believed in his potential and knew where he wanted to go.”
The walls of Noubissi’s cramped office in the Akwa business district are covered in pictures of him with Eto’o, including one with Barcelona president Joan Laporta.
Eto’o played for Real Madrid and starred for Mallorca before joining Barcelona.
But before all of that, he went to France to try his luck only to return home with his tail between his legs.
“When he came back, he had no club but he was still very famous, everybody knew about him in Douala. When he was just 14, he was the one feeding the whole family,” said Hiondi Nkam, author of a new book about Eto’o called “Les Anges et Les Demons” (Angels and Demons).
He was not yet 16 when he made his international debut and barely 17 when he went to the 1998 World Cup after newly appointed coach Claude Le Roy decided he could not ignore such a precocious talent.
“I wanted to give a chance to all the locally based players to see if there were any gems among them and I saw this young player who seemed so comfortable tactically and so intelligent,” Le Roy said.
“He was just a kid but he wasn’t afraid of all the big names in the team.”
Having retired from playing in 2019 aged 38, Eto’o has quickly transitioned into a leadership role off the field and in December, he was elected president of Cameroon’s Football Federation.
“People believe that he is not there for money or fame, but he is there to help,” said Nkam, who sums up what Eto’o means to New Bell. He is a role model. He was selfish on the field of play but very, very human off it. Some people would say that after God comes Samuel Eto’o.”
A fresh start for Cameroon
The campaign Eto’o ran was focused on promoting women’s football and eliminating corruption in the Cameroonian game. Beyond the highly-visible Africa Cup of Nations – BBC and Sky in England announced a broadcast deal that covered all 52 matches; corruption allegations have been a dominant issue within the Cameroon football federation.
« During the campaign…Eto’o said the days when players paid to play on the national team, ‘those days are over,' » reports DW Yaoundé correspondent Moki Edwin Kindzeka. « Those who merit playing on the national team will be called up to play. »
Eto’o filed his candidacy just weeks before the 2021 vote, saying « I will be the next president of the federation despite all the cheating. » In Eto’o’s eyes, his predecessor Njoya, whose election was annulled by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2018, had « failed miserably » as president.
The 40-year-old received endorsements from other presidential candidates, who withdrew their own bids, as well as global stars such as former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi and Cameroon international Roger Milla.
The four-time African Footballer of the Year was voted in for a four-year term in December 2021, defeating interim president Seidou Mbombo Njoya by 43 votes to 31 in the federation’s general assembly.
A two-time AFCON and three-time Champions League winner with 118 appearances and 56 goals for Cameroon, Eto’o called his election « one of the proudest moments » of his life.
Eto’o was conferred the honour of peace maker after he was dressed in a traditional attire by the South West Paramount Chiefs led by HRM Chief Robert Esuka Endeley of Buea. Eto’o was honoured as a result of his success, personality and discipline.
“This is very significant for us, because 70% of Cameroonians are made up of youthful people and Eto’o Fills is a symbol of success in the country; he stands as a role model to our youths and lots of people in this country and we as traditional rulers, decided to crown him to the honour of peacemaker. No matter where you come from, our unity is very much paramount to the success of the nation and we believe he is going to take our sport to another level.”
Gallery: Diaspora Excellence Award 2023
At the occasion organized in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Naija Diaspora Magazine, several individuals, companies, governors, traditional rulers, business owners, government agencies and parastatals as well as politicians were honored for their outstanding performances in 2023. The publication celebrated its
10th anniversary with a two-day event that included the Symposium and Annual Diaspora Excellence Award. This platform provided a unique opportunity for collective learning, networking, and gaining insights into government policies that relate to communities. Attendees were empowered to navigate pathways of positive change. The Symposium lecture was titled: ‘Building a Nation’, with several dignitaries as speakers.
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Inaugural Anambra State Union Football Tournament Triumphs Amidst Adversity
On the 6th of August 2023, a monumental event took place at St Michel, Terminus, Douala, marking the commencement of the First Edition of the Anambra State Union Football Tournament. Under the stewardship of Sir Emeka Uzoka, Chairman of the Anambra State Union, this tournament emerged as a testament to unity, sportsmanship, and the indomitable spirit of the Anambra community.
The opening ceremony set the stage for what would become an unforgettable showcase of camaraderie and competitive fervor. A true celebration of tradition and athleticism, the tournament kicked off with a Veteran Match at 2:00 pm. The clash between Aguata Local Government Union and Nnewi Local Government Union resulted in a gripping encounter, with Aguata securing victory with a 2-0 score line.
Distinguished figures graced the event with their presence, adding prestige to the occasion. Among them was Mr. Oliva Ochi, Consul 1 at the Consulate General Douala, representing the esteemed Consul General, H.E. Amb. (Mrs.) Efe A. Clark-Omeru.
The honorable gathering was further enriched by the participation of key personalities, including: Hon. BIC Okwujiaku, President of the Nigerian Community Douala, HRH Eze Jonathan T. Onyenagubor, Eze Gburugburu 1 of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Cameroon, Sir, Lovinus Ezeh, Vice President, Nigerian Community Douala, Chief Alex Nwoye, Vice President 2, Nigerian Community Douala, Chief Uche Obiekwe, Patron of the Nigerian Community Douala, Chief Innocent Obiorah Odoh, Patron Anambra State Union, Chairmen of Imo and Enugu States Union, Esteemed members of the Anambra State Union.
The event also extended its reach to include esteemed guests from Douala and beyond.
In recognition of the paramount importance of safety and well-being, the organizers ensured the presence of dedicated medical health and security personnel, assuring attendees a secure environment throughout the event.
Despite the inclement weather characterized by heavy rain, the unyielding spirit of the Anambra community remained unshaken. A testament to their passion for football and unity, a remarkable number of attendees braved the elements, converging to witness the unfolding of history on the lush fields of St Michel, Terminus.
The final was held on Sunday 12th of November 2023 @ Bonamousadi Stadium Douala. Oyi Local Government lifted the trophy while Aguta Local Government took the bronze and Idemili Local Government took silver.
The inaugural Anambra State Union Football Tournament stands as an embodiment of shared values, intercommunity collaboration, and the timeless appeal of sport. This event not only etched a significant mark on the sporting calendar but also served as a reminder of the resilience and unity that define the Anambra community.
As the tournament concluded its first chapter, it left in its wake a legacy of camaraderie, sporting excellence, and the promise of more remarkable editions to come.
CAMEROON: Miniature Africa
Cameroon, nestled in the heart of Central Africa, is a country with a captivating blend of rich cultural diversity, stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. Often referred to as « Miniature Africa, » Cameroon offers travelers a unique and multifaceted experience, showcasing the continent’s essence in a single destination.
With more than 250 ethnic groups and languages, Cameroon is a melting pot of diverse cultures, traditions and customs. The capital city, Yaoundé, and the economic hub, Douala, provide excellent starting points to dive into Cameroon’s cultural wealth.
Cameroon’s diverse geography offers a plethora of breathtaking landscapes, each with its unique charm.
In the West, the mist-covered peaks of Mount Cameroon, the highest mountain in West Africa, beckon adventurous hikers to climb and witness awe-inspiring views of the surrounding scenery.
Towards the North, the Sahelian region boasts vast savannas and semi-arid landscapes, offering visitors an opportunity to spot magnificent wildlife, and in the East, the dense rainforests of the Congo Basin teem with a rich variety of flora and fauna, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and exotic bird species.
Tourism Spots on a Budget
Here are a selection of the most distinguished and captivating tourist destinations in Cameroon. These remarkable locales boast accessibility without undue strain on one’s financial resources, making them irresistible choices for tourists.
Mefou National Park:
Mefou National Park houses the Mefou Primate Sanctuary, a rescue center managed by Ape Action Africa. With over 300 rare and endangered primates, it’s a significant conservation project in Africa, providing lifelong care and rehabilitation for animals rescued from illegal trades.
Formerly known as Victoria, Limbe is a port city with a diverse flora and fauna influenced by its colonial past. The Limbe Wildlife Centre/Botanical Centre offers a close-to-nature experience, rescuing and caring for ill-treated and endangered animals.
Mount Cameroon, also called the « Chariot of the Gods, » is West Africa’s highest mountain and an active volcano. A popular destination for adventurers and hikers, the trek offers stunning views, diverse landscapes and encounters with wildlife like monkeys and birds.
Kribi Beach, in the southwestern region, boasts long white sand beaches and clear waters. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. Visitors can also enjoy the Chutes de la Lobé waterfall, where they can swim under the falls. Local cuisine and seafood delicacies await at various restaurants.
Korup National Park:
Korup National Park, renowned for its bird species, offers pristine tropical wilderness. Visitors can enjoy lodging infrastructure and spot unique primates like the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and Perseus’s red colobus. Located near the ocean, Mundemba serves as a starting point for tours to the park, where guides often speak the local Cameroonian language.
Cameroon stands tall as a remarkable destination for audacious travelers seeking a blend of cultural diversity, awe-inspiring landscapes and thrilling adventures. From the depths of the rainforests to the heights of its mountains, and from the bustling cities to the serene beaches, the land beckons with open arms, ready to share its enchanting beauty and warm hospitality with all who venture to explore its wonders. As tourism in Cameroon continues to grow sustainably, the country’s potential as a captivating and memorable destination will undoubtedly flourish.