Cameroonian football icon Samuel Eto’o has drawn the ire of many in the central African country following his public support for incumbent president Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1985 and is seeking re-election for a seventh term in office.
While on a visit to his homeland a day ago, Eto’o, who remains a cult figure in the country even after his international retirement, urged people to ‘act like him’ and vote for Biya.
“I have no doubt about my choice of candidate, who I’m going to vote for. The most important thing is that my brothers do the same like me. Personally, I’m going to vote for the candidate-president Paul Biya for all the good things he did for me in my career,” Eto’o said.
The backlash from that declaration was immediate. From social to traditional media, many have condemned the involvement of the former Barcelona star in the presidential campaign.
“Due to his financial status and freedom, Eto’o is out of touch with the realities of Cameroon. He doesn’t know how people are suffering here,” Stephanie Bong, a 24-year-old student at the University of Yaoundé 1 told ACLsports.
“Eto’o represents not only pride for every Cameroonian youth but also hope. And the truth is that our youth know no other president since they were born because Biya has been ruling for 36 years now. We have no hope of a better future with same regime and Eto’o has just destroyed the little hope that was left,” she said.
However, like Eto’o, some Cameroonians have expressed concerns that a change in regime could trigger instability in a country that has known decades of relative peace in the sub region.
The elections will hold on Sunday October 7.
Cameroon is the host nation for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations set for June next year. CAF has pointed at ‘significant delay’ in preparation for the tournament. The slightest political disturbance stemming from the upcoming elections could force the continent football’s body to look elsewhere for a new host.