That Samuel Eto’o was never a conventional player is something we all know. That his ferocity on the pitch is the same for organising charity events or helping to build hospitals is not so well known.
Born into a middle-class family in Mkon, a village near Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, where his father worked in a construction company until he was 6 years old. Samuel always showed a great interest in football, a fact that was reaffirmed when his father took him to watch the Cameroon-Zambia match, which was won by the home team by 2 goals to 0. From that moment on, little Eto’o decided that he was going to be a professional footballer, and to that end he began to dedicate many more hours to football than to his studies.
Although his family was initially opposed, they quickly realized his talent and he ended up entering the Brasseries school in Douala at the age of 10. His quality was so evident that Avenir Duala, a professional team in the second division, signed him when he was just 12 years old.
At the age of 15, Samuel already had a monthly salary equivalent to 600 euros, a veritable fortune in Cameroon. Samuel was aware of how much he was helping his family with that salary so when in 1997 he was signed by Pirri, Real Madrid’s scout to join the Spanish league, he didn’t think twice about it. The rest is history.
In the Spanish League he started in Real Madrid but was loaned to RCD Espanyol and RCD Mallorca, where in the Balearic team and under the orders of Gregorio Manzano got the red and white team to lift his only Copa del Rey.
He was named 4 times best footballer in Africa. In total he won two King’s Cups, 3 Spanish Leagues, 2 Spanish Super Cups, 3 Champions League, 1 Scudetto, 2 Italian Cups and 1 Italian Super Cup, one Olympic Games and 2 African Cups.
He is the only player in the world to have scored in 7 official competitions in the same year and an unrepeatable player who, despite having won everything, has not wanted to forget those who need him most. A quick internet search shows us dozens of news related to his charity galas, such as the one he organized in Milan and with which he raised 400,000 euros for a pediatric hospital in Cameroon, or his spontaneous acts of help to strangers, such as the donation of 4500 euros in a check to a young man who asked for help and with which he changed his life.
It happened in 2007 when Eto’o was visiting Côte d’Ivoire. After running some errands for his wife, Samuel got into his car just as he was approached by an individual. At first she was frightened but the young man told her that he didn’t want to do anything to her, to call the police if she wanted to. He explained that he was a kitchen helper but that he had dreams and projects and no one wanted to help him. Eto’o wrote him a cheque and gave him his number. He told him that in a year he would come to visit him and the young man told him that he would not regret it.
A year later, Eto’o received a call from the youngster. He had opened his own hardware store, employed 25 people and owned 2 taxis. It certainly changed his life.
Samuel Eto’o has his own charitable foundation where more than 8000 children have been sponsored, he also organises annual tournaments to help another 2500 children all over Africa.
The Indomitable Lion of Cameroon left us an impressive legacy in sport and continues to do so in life with acts that remind us that when he struggled in Douala he found in football people who helped him not only to be a great footballer, but also a self-made person who was proud of himself.