Cameroonian football star Samuel Eto'o rises to global fame and retires by 38

Eto'o with Anzhi Makhachkala in a Russian Cup game against FC Dynamo Moscow, September 2011, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Cameroonian great, Samuel Eto'o, has “put an end” to his illustrious career spanning 22 years in 13 clubs across six countries – winning four African player-of-the-year awards and three Union of European Football Associations Champion League trophies.

Netizens quickly took to Twitter to celebrate the football hero:

But how did he get there?

Appearing as the youngest player in the 1998 World Cup in France, Eto’o had sterling performances back home with his formation club, Kaji Sports Academy, before switching to Real Madrid as a youth player, at the age of 15.

“As young as he was … on February 11, 1996, Eto’o was [a student] with KSA [Kaji Sports Academy] before moving to Real Madrid,” former Cameroon midfielder, Samson Che, told Global Voices in an interview on September 7, in Buea, Cameroon.

Che himself helped qualify Cameroon's national football team, the Indomitable Lions, for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He is also the 2000 Cup of Cameroon winner with Kumbo Strikers, and a 2006 Rwandan Cup winner with Armée Patriotique Rwandaise Football Club (APRFC).

“I had the opportunity to play against him in a friendly game at [the] club level; by then I played for PWD Bamenda [a northwest regional club] while he represented KSA,” Che said. He continued:

“[He was] barely … 16, because he was born in 1981 … he gave our central defenders all sorts of problems — with his pace, technical ability and tactical maturity for that age – it was so amazing — despite him playing just 45 minutes. About two years on, he came to the World Cup as the youngest player.

Eto’o introduced himself to Africa

Having impressed so young, Eto’o played a significant role in Cameroon’s 2000 Summer Olympics qualifiers against Ghana.

“We were called to camp in the Olympic national team — that was November 1999. Eto’o, and Pierre Nlend Womé, came one week to the game against Ghana. We had lost to Ghana away, 2-1, but we defeated them in Yaoundé 2-0,” Che explained. He continued:

Eto’o was all over the field — that was the day he revealed himself to the Cameroonian public under the watchful eyes of Pierre Lechantre [then-Indomitable Lions coach]. … I think that match earned him a ticket to go for the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations [hosted by] Ghana and Nigeria.

Eto'o, the former Barcelona forward, went on to emerge as Cameroon’s joint top scorer with Patrick M’Mboma, as the Indomitable Lions held their nerve to beat Nigeria in the final.

Cameroon defended their berth as African champions in Mali in 2002 with Samuel Eto’o restricted to just a goal, but he would go on to score 18 times, becoming the tournament’s record scorer.

Eto’o on the world stage

Samuel Eto’o will be remembered for always delivering on big occasions.

The 38-year-old netted in both UEFA Champions League finals for FC Barcelona in 2006 and 2009 as the Catalonian giants clinched gold in the events.

As if those weren’t enough, he went on to win another Champions League trophy with Inter-Milan – playing a modified role under former Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho:

Eto’o’s ability to stamp his mark as one of the top scorers at former club Mallorca and FC Barcelona with 108 goals in 144 appearances make him an African legend.

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