Robson Sharuko in JOHANNESBURG
AFRICA’S most decorated footballer, Samuel Eto’o, is again expected to be the star attraction when the second edition of the Castle Africa 5, the continent’s biggest five-a-side tournament, is launched in Soweto today.
The Cameroonian legend is the face of the tournament, which exploded into life last year, with teams from five countries — Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia Lesotho, Swaziland and Tanzania — taking part.
Castle has been sponsoring football on the continent for over 60 years now and is the brand that bankrolls the domestic Premiership in Zimbabwe.
Last year, the inaugural tournament was won by the South Africans with the triumphant players also getting a chance to travel to Russia to watch the FIFA World Cup finals.
Eto’o, who turns 38 in exactly a month’s time, has been an enduring symbol of both success and longevity in the game and is now playing at his 13th professional side. At a time when debate has also been raging back home about the wisdom, or lack of it, behind Dynamos’ decision to invest in veteran forward Edward Sadomba, who has also been handed the armband, Eto’o provides a degree of reason for such a risky investment.
The Cameroonian moved to Qatari club Qatar Sports Club in August last year and declared he is not considering retirement yet.
“What drives me is that I’m still fit and my vision is still the same as when I started,” Eto’o told journalists.
“I’ve enjoyed myself on the pitch, so I just want to keep going.”
Eto’o is Africa’s most decorated footballer after winning three Euro Champions League titles, two with Barcelona and one with Italian giants Inter Milan.
He also won numerous domestic titles in Spain and Italy — three La Liga titles with Barcelona and two Serie A titles with Inter Milan.
Eto’o was also an AFCON winner in 2000 and 2002.
Despite his remarkable success story, Eto’o says it’s always difficult for African players to succeed in Europe and they have to do even four times more than their European counterparts to make it.
“It is very difficult being African and going abroad to play football in a (European) country,” he remarked during the launch of last year’s edition of this tournament.
“The weather is difficult, the food and everything but you have to adapt yourself.
“You have to be more talented than the (Europeans) four times more talented.
“You just have to be patient.”
He said he was honoured to be part of the Castle Africa 5s.
“It’s an honour to be part of this initiative whereby communities are provided with a rare opportunity to form bonds in the field of play and across borders,” he revealed.
“I have formed amazing friendships around the globe on the football field and now fans stand a chance of reliving my experience.”
Former Warriors midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha is the Zimbabwe ambassador for the tournament and also flew into Johannesburg yesterday ahead of today’s launch.