‘I should have won 12 times'
Kickoff|February 2020
‘I should have won 12 times'
Samuel Eto’o announced his retirement from professional football in 2019 and leaves behind a legacy that many consider sees him as the greatest African footballer of all time with 18 major titles won for club and country. KICK OFF’s Lorenz Kohler sat down with the four-time CAF African Player of the Year at the Duqesa de Cardona hotel in Barcelona before El Clasico to find out his role in the Castle Lager Africa Fives project and look back on an iconic career that started back in 1997.

KICK OFF: Samuel, you need no introduction as a legend of African football, but tell us, what is your involvement with Africa Five’s with Castle Lager South Africa?

Samuel Eto’o: About my influence, you have to judge for yourself what influence I have in Africa, I’m a big name in Africa. The Africa Fives experience is a very good idea, I joined Castle Lager on this project because I like to help people keep dreaming. This project of five-a-side is also interesting. What I saw with the Uganda women is very special because they started dreaming, taking them from Uganda to here [Camp Nou]. That was very special to me because I saw their faces and how happy they were to be here and this is the kind of experience I love to give to the kids of Africa. I’m always trying to give back what people gave to me.

What boundaries need to be broken to get these talented Africans to thrive at the elite level of European football like you did?

The first problem is us, Africans. We have to know what we want, what is our goal trajectory because that very important, what is possible to get success. This is the first problem we face. Then it’s opportunity, when you want to represent these kinds of clubs in Spanish football, you need to have opportunity and opportunity is everything.

You’ve been a big advocate for Sadio Mane, RiyadMahrez and Mohamed Salah to earn recognition at the highest level. Mane’s fourth place in the Ballon d’Or, in particular, raised eye-brows. What more can be done for an African to break into the top-three or even win it again, like GeorgeWeah did in 1995?

The problem is not about European people or South American people [when it comes to voting in Ballon d’Or], the problem is from African people. It’s not normal. [Lionel] Messi is winning in South America, [Virgil] van Dijk is winning all of Europe, Sadio Mane didn’t win in Africa! Something is wrong, the problem is clearly Africa, the problem is now the opposition has an easy job when the African media didn’t do their job and it’s such an easy job for them. The African needs to know nobody else will come do their job for them – it’s impossible.

What about the development of African football? In terms of professionalism of leagues, CAF competitions and bridging the gap of Europe, whereby club’s won’t look to shortchange clubs for star players due to their inexperience at their ‘level’?

The problem is down to each individual [when it comes to development struggles], we need to make extended effort to improve African football collectively because it’s not promoted well. Like Castle Lager is doing now so successfully, the problem, individually [as players, leagues, media, federations] we have to push and make a greater effort.

What do you hope to achieve with Castle’s Africa Fives and in the long-term with the Confederation of African Football?

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February 2020