- Samuel Eto'o was in Moscow for Cameroon v Chile on Father's Day
- He is like a proud dad to the players who came through his academy
- Like any good parent, he also offered some words of advice
By Pascal De Miramon with Cameroon
"Good evening dad!" said Fabrice Ondoa and Christian Bassogog, peering into a phone camera.
The scene was a few days after Cameroon had won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 and the pair, respectively named the competition's outstanding goalkeeper and the player of the tournament, were recording a video for Samuel Eto'o.
"Thank you for everything you've done for us, thank you for your foundation, without which our dreams wouldn't have come true today," went on Ondoa, before also thanking his country's all-time top scorer for having gone to the stadium to support the Indomitable Lions in their final win over Egypt. "It's thanks to you that we've got these," said the beaming duo, proudly holding up the gold medals hanging around their necks.
*Foundation for family pride *Touched by the message, a proud Eto'o posted the clip on his Instagram account, with the words "I'd like to share my happiness with all of you" as a caption. "Thank you to my kids," added the Antalyaspor forward, who has been involved in a range of development, education and training projects for numerous years.
Bassogog, Ondoa and their international team-mate Andre Onana are all products of the football academy run by the Samuel Eto'o Foundation and it is plain to see that they maintain a strong emotional bond with their philanthropic compatriot.
Despite retiring from the international game following the team's abject failure at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, Eto'o's influence continues to be writ large on the Cameroonian national team. It was fitting, then, that the recently appointed FIFA Legend should have been in Moscow last Sunday – Father's Day, no less – for his country's FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 opener against Chile.
"It's a huge source of pride for any father to watch his children grow up and do great things," he told FIFA.com, "I'm thrilled to see kids who passed through my hands in this team. But I'm just an intermediary who gave them a chance to showcase all their talent. I wish them a long career like mine – or an even better one!"
While the fledgling Lions are currently far off matching Eto'o's individual achievements, the veteran hailed the team spirit that underlay their run to African glory, which was notoriously missing from certain Cameroon sides of the past.
"They've got a good team, and above all a great group. As I always say, with harmony you are halfway to victory. Everyone knows that you have limited time together in the national team, but in spite of that, they managed to build that rapport really quickly. I hope they carry on in the same vein and that there are many more triumphs to come."
*DID YOU KNOW? *Eto's spectacular winner against Brazil in the 2003 Confederations Cup inflicted the South Americans' only defeat in 33 matches against African opposition at FIFA tournaments.
Never shy about speaking his mind, the father figure was also happy to offer his former academy charges some advice for the future. "First and foremost, I'd tell them simply to pursue their dreams. That doesn't just apply to this competition. They have to strive to get better every day, because football is a constant test. You have to put in the effort to improve on a daily basis; that's the only way you can leave your mark in this wonderful sport."
Described by captain Benjamin Moukandjo as a side without "any real stars", Cameroon will nevertheless be looking for someone to steal the spotlight in their next match, against Australia. As Eto'o put it, challenging this crop of players to keep blossoming and perhaps even outstrip him one day, "It's all well and good having a team that put the group's interests ahead of personal glory, but sometimes it takes individual exploits to clinch collective success."
As he might have added, the two things must coexist in harmony.