It says a lot for a man's sense of perspective that the only way he can be persuaded to play a football match is through state intervention. The president of Cameroon, Paul Biya, has managed to coax Samuel Eto'o out of international retirement, just like he did with Roger Milla in 1990.
Eto'o has long since transcended his status as merely a football player, the millions and the titles have bestowed upon him the status of an icon. That is how he sees himself. Whether it's stopping a training session because he fancies a Coke or dictating team selections, Eto'o behaves how he pleases. And so it was with Eto'o's retirement from the team with which he has become synonymous.
Volker Finke, the Cameroon coach, last month named a 25-man squad for today's World Cup qualification playoff against Tunisia. Eto'o was on that list. With 55 goals in 112 internationals you might expect he would be. But it's been a complicated process. Between Finke naming Eto'o in the squad and handing him his famous green number nine shirt in Rades today, the Cameroonian public have been unsure of his participation.
After last month's narrow 1-0 win over Libya in Yaounde, Eto'o told teammates that his time with the national team was at an end. There was speculation that a breakdown in his relationship with Finke, after only four matches of the German's reign, was the chief cause.
Eto'o had tried, again, to meddle in the Cameroon team like he had done at Anzhi Makhachkala and previously with the national side. Goalkeeper Carlos Kameni and striking deputy Achille Webo were Eto'o's preferred selections on the day. Finke would not waver, however, and stuck to his choices of Charles Itandje and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting.
The Chelsea forward has been uncharacteristically reticent since that match against Libya, in which he wore the captain's armband but played only an hour. He has since refused to go on record about his 'retirement', leading to all sorts of distracting conjecture dominating the build-up to the vital matches against the Carthage Eagles. Finke urged Eto'o to explain himself instead of having to field questions about the issue.
- Sports & Recreation
- Volker Finke