Cameroon football federation President Samuel Eto’o has defended himself against accusations that he undermined coach Rigobert Song’s authority when he laid into the players following a 1-1 draw against Burundi in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in June.
A visibly angry Eto’o met the players in the dressing room shortly after the match which the Indomitable Lions struggled to break down their stubborn opponents, telling them that he will be happy to play ‘kids’ if they did not up their game.
"I am not happy,” he began. “I don't care who you play against; you represent Cameroon. I am not happy at all. In my time, I missed the World Cup because I knew what problems I had. Those problems won't repeat themselves while I'm president,” he added.
“Places in this team will be earned. Nobody, I repeat, nobody has a place guaranteed in this team. You must do your job. Whoever comes here to wear this shirt must do the job, or else, he goes and I will be happy to have the children play,” said the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker.
That dressing down saw the Fecafoot boss criticised by some observers who felt he should have left Song to speak to the players instead. However, the four-time African Player of the Year feels he was well within his rights.
“I fought for him [Song] to be the coach but I am the president,” Eto’o told ITV Senegal.
He added: “The coach is selected and he reports to me. I am within my rights to intervene if I find that something does not work well. That’s the role of the president.”
“My job is not only to come and say everything is fine, I defend my players, I will defend him [Song] until my last drop of blood but it is also my duty to say if something is not right. You know sometimes when passion flows, it is difficult to control yourself.”
“I have to anticipate all aspects because I saw certain situations which were not what I wanted when I was a player. Not because we were not good but because we had not realised and anticipated the fact that the expectations were so high and so we have to respond strongly from this experience today.”
“If I see a player not doing their job, I will wear my president’s costume and that of the federation. My executive committee and myself will take the necessary decision.”
Eto’o was in Senegal as part of a promotional tour of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to which he is the ambassador. The Indomitable Lions are in Group B alongside Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland.