FIFA star, Samuel Eto’o shares with GC the importance of having a dream, working hard, and staying true to yourself.
Before you moved to Europe at the age of 16, you spent your childhood in Cameroon. Tell us more about those earlier days.
I always remember the days growing up in Cameroon as my happiest memories, surrounded by my family, and receiving all the affection I needed for a balanced childhood. I had food, a place to stay and friends that I played with every day. I was happy. It’s true that we tend to highlight the fact that I grew up in a working-class neighborhood, but reality is not the same when you look through the eyes of a child. A child enjoys the essentials, the simple things, the small pleasures of life. And I was very fortunate to have them.
What was your dream as a teenager when you first moved to Europe?
My dream was always to make a difference and I hope I was able to do so in my own way, even if I still have a lot of challenges ahead of me. If I hadn’t been a professional athlete, I would have liked to be a lawyer, yet another way to be able to make a difference. I have always been outraged by injustice and throughout my journey I became passionate about speaking out for those who don’t have the same opportunity to be heard.
To what do you attribute the incredible success of your career?
Determination, state of mind and faith were the clear contributors to my success. I have always believed and said that talent alone is not enough. It takes many other things, like work ethic, a strong mind, and to a certain extent, support and encouragement. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but is built step by step through some failure, and many small victories. But in every case, perseverance is key because once you give up, you’ve already lost.
How do you think your life story can inspire young dreamers in Cameroon?
I hope that my entire journey, leading up to this very moment, has inspired the younger generation to dream and to believe that anything is possible. But, even more so, to understand that nothing is promised in life and that it takes effort to make your dreams come true. You need to believe in yourself, but also work hard. To dream without putting in the work is just an illusion, you need to do your part.
You are equally celebrated for your generosity and philanthropic endeavours. Which causes speak out to you?
Many causes are important to me, but the ones that are closest to my heart are those that involve youth that need to be supported, mentored and educated to be able to take control of their future with confidence.
Tell us about the Samuel Eto’o Pavilion at the Lacquintinie Hospital and how it is being affected by the current pandemic?
As mentioned, I am sensitive to the cause of children in need, and this Pavilion which was generously named after me –– was opened in 2016 in the city of Douala to meet emergency paediatric needs. During the current pandemic, the Pavilion also served as a Covid-19 testing site which has been vital for the entire population given the timely circumstances.
What is the one message you want people to learn through your global platform?
If I had one message to the world, it would be addressed to the youth and more broadly to all those who aspire for more. You have to dream big, work hard to make those dreams come true, and most importantly to never overlook the importance of quality education. Education helps us acquire the necessary tools, all while teaching us to ask the right questions; questions to which we must provide solutions.
What does being a Global Citizen mean to you?
To me, being a Global Citizen is no different from being a human being. We all belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us. We are all linked, all interconnected and the current events around the world is a key reminder of that.