In the 17 years that Eto’o played for Cameroon he only worked with four local coaches in the national team and none of them lasted more than a year. It’s not just the Indomitable Lions who believe that European coaches equal a superior being, it’s a widely held notion on the continent at international and club level. But coaches such as Aliou Cisse of Senegal, who captained the Lions of Teranga in the 2002 World Cup and will lead them in Russia this year as head coach, inspire Eto’o to also join the choir of people who are calling for more local coaches not only being given the task of managing their national teams but also backed by the football governing bodies across the continent once they are at the helm.
“Africa has to believe in Africans,” Eto’o said through a translator in Johannesburg after he was announced as the ambassador of the Castle Africa 5s, a new five-aside tournament. “There are so many players who represent their countries at the highest level, they retire and get coaching badges but they are never given a chance in their own countries. Look at Aliou Cisse, he was given a chance and he has done well for his country. But this is my opinion and not that of Cameroon’s federation. What I would like to see is more belief on African talent in the coaching in the continent. We can do better with an African coach because they have a better understanding of where the players come from.”
The Indomitable Lions are in the process of hiring Hugo Broos’ replacement after they fired the Belgian in December following a poor showing in the Fifa Confederations Cup and failing to qualify for the World Cup. That failure washed away Broos’ success of winning the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon early last year with a make-shift team after five senior players refused to honour the call-ups.
Broos had to make do with what he had in a tournament where Cameroon were not given a chance, especially with passage to glory that included facing Sadio Mane’s Senegal in the quarter-finals, Ghana in the semi-finals and a rejuvenated Egypt in the final. The Indomitable Lions defied the odds and went all the way to claim their fifth Afcon title to end a 15-year drought. Before this generation won the Afcon, the last continental title Cameroon celebrated was with a 20-year-old Eto’o in Mali in 2002.
“I was very proud when Cameroon won the Nations Cup but I was sad when they didn’t qualify for the World Cup because I thought that they would build from that success in Africa and take it to the next level,” Eto’o said. “This is young team full of talent and quality. It can go far. But they have to work hard to meet the standards that international football demands and reach the level they reached last year when they won the Nations Cup. They have to introduce a coach who can take the team forward by blooding young players with those who have experience. Maybe then Cameroon will return to that level.”