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4/17/2006 1:23 AM

Exclusive: Samuel Eto’o Profile

Cameroonians can proudly boast of their legendary footballer, Roger Milla, who was instrumental in the Indomitable Lions’ quarterfinal campaign in the 1990 World Cup, but though we still have those memories in mind, the emergence of another dynamic force and Indomitable Lion is evidently making a huge impact both for club and country.

You may want to label him as the ‘electric goal scoring machine’, and if you do choose to refer to him with that acronym, then Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o amply deserves the name, notably, for his consistency this season. The 25-year-old might be on the wish list of every high profile coach because of the attributes that make him a striker, which are among the things that have stirred a lot of media attention in his path, most essentially during the last two seasons.

Today, Eto’o’s improvement and efficiency on the pitch compared to the previous seasons is evident for everyone to see. Marked by his sheer pace, strength, winning spirit and goal scoring prowess, Eto’o has become every opposing coach’s headache. While these coaches might spend a lot of time in the dressing room tutoring their defenders on how to contain the Cameroonian international, Eto’o does not seem to be intimidated much as he just cannot stop scoring.

After insisting he wanted to join Barcelona, Real Madrid who owned 50 per cent of the player finally let him join their rivals in 2004 from RCD Mallorca. He was quick to settle at Barcelona during his first season as his services were instrumental in helping the Catalan club win their first championship in five years and he stood as the club’s leading goalscorer with 24 goals. The striker, who is ranked among the top five most commercially valuable footballers in the world and estimated by consultancy firm BBDO Germany, with an off-field value at US$36 million, was then given a contract extension through 2010.

Eventually, he could again articulate his seeming anger on the pitch against Real Madrid [for not giving him much opportunity to play for them] as he merrily scores against them on many occasions when he faces them in the championship.

Following Barcelona’s league triumph last season, Eto’o created headlines for his insulting comments directed towards his former club, chanting into the microphone during their celebrations at the Nou Camp: "Madrid, cabron, saluda al campeon" (‘Madrid, bastards, hail the champions’).

He was fined £8,250 for his actions and apologized at a news conference saying: “I would like to ask forgiveness for what I said. One thing is what you think and another is what you say.”

"I would like to ask the fans, the club and anyone else who might have felt offended to accept a thousand apologies from me. I never wanted to show any lack of respect to anyone.
"What happened was that in a moment of joy I started to sing and that was all. If it hadn't been for Real Madrid I would never have got this far, so I beg forgiveness and hope that people will understand me."

He may have learnt a lesson but back on the pitch, with five more games to be played before the end of this season, Eto’o is currently leading the goalscorer’s chart in La Liga with 24 goals, 5 goals ahead of his closest challenger David Villa of Valencia. He is determined not to have a repeat of what happened at the end of last season.

Though he had a wonderful first season at Barcelona, he sadly and narrowly missed the opportunity to win the European Golden Boot as he fell short by one goal. Villarreal’s Diego Forlan overtook him at the end of season by scoring five goals in his last two matches to emerge as La Liga’s top goalscorer and eventually, jointly winning the Golden Boot Award with Arsenal’s Thierry Henry, something that might have left Eto’o with bitter memories.

Thanks to being injury-free, Eto’o has so far been able to overcome those bitter memories as he is again enjoying an exceptional season, helping Barcelona maintain a pole position in the championship with 73 points, 11 points ahead of their rivals and second-placed Vallencia. Barcelona are also through to the semifinals of this year’s UEFA Champions League and Eto’o has been instrumental in their quest for European championship glory by netting five goals.

Born in Nkon, Cameroon on March 10, 1981, it was Real Madrid talent scouts that first spotted Eto’o while he was playing for a local team in his hometown and in 1996, he signed a contract for the Spanish club, though he barely made it in the first eleven. He made his debut in 1998 but was later loaned to Espanyol where he never made any appearances.

He was again loaned to Leganes in the second division and later to RCD Mallorca in 1999, where he really started showing his potential. He scored 54 goals for Mallorca and eventually became the highest league goal scorer ever in the club’s history. He also helped them win the Spanish Cup in 2003.

During the summer of 2004, Barcelona bought him for £18 million, and he has quickly paid the club back with his performances that have helped make the difference in terms of winning the championship.

Though he has enjoyed much success in Spain during the last two years, he has also been a victim of racial abuse while playing for his club. Fans of Real Zaragoza have twice abused him this season – though the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for the most recent incident, fined the club 9,000 Euros. During that match, Eto’o had to be persuaded by his coach Frank Rijkaard and team-mates to continue playing – as he tried to leave the pitch following the racial abuse.

In November 2004, he again suffered racial abuse from Getafe fans as his side went on to win the match 2-1. Monkey chants are nothing new to him as they were leveled against him every time he touched the ball during the match.

In February 2005, he responded to monkey chants from Real Zaragoza fans by dancing like a monkey after scoring a goal in a 4-1 haul over Zaragoza. Afterwards, he was quoted saying: “I danced like a monkey because they treated me like a monkey.”

The question of why racism is hard to abolish in football is every one’s homework assignment. But how Eto’o has been able to overcome this ugly and unjust racial abuse to further make a big difference on the pitch by notching the much needed goals for his club is something else that describes his qualities as a striker.

While he has been in outstanding form for his club, he has also had no difficulty in making headlines on the international stage. Indeed, Eto’o has made a huge impact for his country. At 17-years-old, he was selected to play for Cameroon at the 1998 World Cup finals, where he was the youngest player of the tournament. He played in the 2000 African Nations Cup where he scored four goals including a vital one in the Indomitable Lions’ win over Nigeria in the final that secured them the gold medal.

He again displayed his prowess for Cameroon at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney where his goal helped them force Spain into extra time after a 2-2 draw during regulation time. Cameroon eventually won the Gold medal after a penalty shoot-out where Eto’o was again on target.

In 2002, he again won the African Nations Cup with his country and was part of the Indomitable Lions’ squad in the 2004, and 2006 finals, in the latter of which he became the tournament’s leading goal scorer with 5 goals. But unfortunately, Cameroon failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals after he missed a decisive penalty kick against the Ivory Coast.

If Eto’o has had any deep regret during the last year, then it might be related to the fact that he will be watching the 2006 World Cup finals on TV. A last-gasp penalty during Cameroon’s final qualifier against Egypt in October 2005 would have sent them through but Pierre Wome’s shot from the spot hit the post.

The post match developments saw contradictory statements from Eto’o and Wome about which of them should have taken that penalty and what led to Wome taking it. Wome later told a news conference that no one [including Eto’o] wanted to take the penalty shot. But the key fact in the scenario is that Cameroon failed to qualify for their fifth successive World Cup finals in Germany, even though many of Eto’o’s fans would have loved to see him in action.

Eto’o has not fallen short of football accolades. He is the reigning CAF African Footballer of the Year after consecutively winning it for the third time in 2005. On the bigger stage, he faced a tough challenge from his Barcelona team-mate Ronaldinho [who has been an essential supply source for many of Eto’o’s goals] and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard in the 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year Award where he won third place. More titles and awards await him should he continue his top form for both club and country.

While his name often frightens opposing defenders, Eto’o is a striker full of ambition and winning spirit. There are many who believe no striker can be compared to him at the moment.

Sheku Lamin, based in USA, is the most devout Eto’o and Barcelona fan I have ever come across and he was quick to applaud the striker’s form. “There is no doubt in my mind that Eto’o is presently the best striker in the world,” he said. “His progress over the last few years took me by surprise and it’s really sad that he wont be featuring in this year’s World Cup as his hot-form would have been advantageous for him to again be a very strong contender for the FIFA World Player of the Year Award.

“Many people say he wont be consistent in scoring goals for Barcelona in the absence of Ronaldinho but that’s not true, as he has been on the score sheet for his club during their last two matches [against Racing Santander and Villarreal] where the Brazilian did not feature.”

Eto’o has often shown commitment to club and country [notably in 2003, when he commuted between Spain and France to feature in the key ties for his club and in the Confederations Cup for Cameroon, respectively].

We shall see what the future holds for this young Cameroonian star but whatever the case may be, you have to watch out for that boy who just cannot stop scoring – Samuel Eto’o Fils.

Fact File

Full Name: Samuel Eto’o Fils
Birth Date: 10th March 1981
Birth Place: Nkon
Birth Nation: Cameroon
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 76kg
Nationality: Cameroonian
Position: Forward
Previous Clubs: UCB Douala (Cameroon), Real Madrid, Leganes, Espanyol, Real Mallorca

Ibrahim Dabo
Goal.com Africa’s Editor

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