Samuel Eto’o, a legend accused of match-fixing, physical threats and inciting violence

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Samuel Eto’o is one of Africa’s greatest players. His glittering career included two Africa Cup of Nations titles with Cameroon and four African Player of the Year awards, plus Champions League, Spanish and Italian league titles with Barcelona and Inter Milan.

The president of Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot) was a visible presence at this year’s AFCON, shedding tears of joy as Cameroon advanced to the knockouts and dancing with the team in the dressing room. Now they are out — after defeat to Nigeria at the weekend — the focus is likely to fall back on him alone.

He has packed a lot into his two years in charge. In June 2022, he was given a 22-month suspended prison sentence and fined £1.4million ($1.7m) after pleading guilty to a charge of tax fraud linked to his image rights when he played in Spain.

In May 2023, he announced that he was “proud” to become an ambassador for gambling company 1XBet, despite football’s world governing body FIFA’s ethics code forbidding “officials” from participating “either directly or indirectly” in betting or having any such association, with a maximum punishment of a three-year ban from football. When asked by The Athletic whether a president of a national football federation counts as an official, FIFA were unable to clarify their own rules.

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At the Qatar World Cup, Eto’o apologised for, as he put it, “a violent altercation” with an Algerian journalist outside a stadium.

Now, The Athletic has seen WhatsApp messages, emails, letters and audio recordings that a former Fecafoot executive claims are of Eto’o and others, which the former executive says support a wide-ranging list of accusations, including that Eto’o and close aides were involved in match-fixing, abuse of power, physical threats, inciting violence and spreading false information in Cameroon.

The file was sent to FIFA’s Ethics Committee in July by former Fecafoot vice-president Henry Njalla Quan Junior and is also being investigated by CAF, Africa’s football federation.

In August, CAF said it was looking into “serious” claims of “improper conduct” made by various Cameroonian football stakeholders against Eto’o. 
CAF have told The Athletic that the investigation is still active but — as they made clear in their initial statement — Eto’o is “presumed to be innocent until an appropriate judicial body concludes otherwise”. FIFA declined to comment on whether they have started their own investigation. Eto’o’s lawyers, Vey & Associes — and Eto’o himself — were contacted by The Athletic for comment but didn’t respond. They have previously denied the claims, calling them “calumnious rumours”.

Though Njalla Quan Junior has submitted a dossier of what he claims is evidence, the strength of that evidence is yet to be tested and some of it is anonymous or indirect. But whatever the outcome, Eto’o and Cameroon football face an uncomfortable time due to the serious nature of the accusations, including from those within Fecafoot.

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One of the claims Njalla Quan Junior makes is that Eto’o arranged for a key match to be fixed — involving the team owned by Njalla Quan Junior — after the former Fecafoot vice-president had asked for improvements in the standards and transparency at the organisation.

Njalla Quan Sports Academy’s (NQSA) match against Kumba City FC is described in the complaint as “the most scandalous… in the history of mankind”. At half-time of the first leg, it is alleged that a phone was put on loudspeaker so the referees could receive direct instructions from Eto’o himself. This claim is made by Njalla Quan Junior and is based on communication that he has had with a third party who wanted to remain anonymous.

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