To stay up to date with African news, subscribe to the “World Africa” newsletter from this link. Every Saturday at 6 a.m., find a week of current events and debates treated by the editorial staff of World Africa.
They are three years apart, have played in big European clubs and won many collective and individual titles. Forwards Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) and Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) have also made a lot of money during their careers. They could have taken advantage of their retirement from sports to manage their affairs and follow football news from afar … Both have however chosen to run for the presidency of the federations of their respective countries of birth, where the election will take place. in December.
Didier Drogba, 43, announced in 2019 his desire to succeed Augustin Sidy Diallo, who died on November 21, 2020 after contracting Covid-19, at the head of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF). Facing him, the former captain of the Elephants will find Sory Diabaté and Idriss Diallo, who both held the vice-presidency of the FIF.
In Cameroon, the candidacy of Samuel Eto’o, formalized on September 22, was received almost as obvious. In 2018, the former captain of the national team supported Seidou Mbombo Njoya, the current president of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fécafoot), who is expected to stand for re-election. Two other former Indomitable Lions, Jules Onana and Emmanuel Maboang, are also applying.
Both campaign on similar themes, such as the promotion of professional championships, the development of women’s football, youth competitions or better governance. Very popular in public opinion and in the press, they also have a certain amount of sympathy with the electorate, made up of the different football families (players, coaches, referees, etc.). Support, however, far from guaranteeing them an election in a chair.
« Not just friends among footballers »
Didier Drogba thus experienced a major snub by failing to rally the Association of Ivorian Footballers (AFI) to his candidacy, of which he is, however, a founding member. AFI criticized him for his lack of commitment to Ivorian football. “He made a career in Europe, China and the United States and when he returned to Ivory Coast, it was for the matches of the selection or in a private capacity. He did not follow the local football situation very closely. By force of circumstances, he is more attentive to it today, observes a retired player. Drogba doesn’t just have friends among footballers. Some adore him, but others find him too cold or too individualistic. «
Conversely, Samuel Eto’o has often shown a real interest in football in his native country. « He got personally involved so that Cameroon retains the organization of the CAN [Coupe d’Afrique des nations] in 2022 « , notes Claude Jabéa Bekombo, coordinator of the Center for Research on Sport in Africa, in Yaoundé. For several months, Samuel Eto’o has been traveling, meeting and consulting a lot. He probes many former Cameroonian internationals in order to convince them to support him – which some, contacted by The World Africa, still hesitate to do. « Eto’o had conflicts with teammates and not all have forgotten them », slips an ancient Indomitable Lion.
The two attackers have different personalities. Didier Drogba is not used to shattering statements, unlike his younger brother, known to say out loud what he thinks. The Ivorian has always kept his distance from the media, while the Cameroonian is more willing to expose himself. Samuel Eto’o however made the choice to communicate in a very calculated way on his candidacy. “He has a team, a website, but he is especially active in discussions between the various players in local football. For the moment, he prefers it to TV shows, newspapers or radios ”, continues Claude Jabéa Bekombo.
On the other hand, « We hear too little Drogba: his name and his aura will not be enough to convince the electorate, even if it is not the supporters and the journalists who vote », said Kae Oulaï, president of the Association of football coaches and educators of Côte d’Ivoire. Some of his relatives have advised him, for the moment without success, to better sell his program.
Attract foreign investors
The two candidates rely heavily on their celebrity and their networks to attract the votes of the electorate. Didier Drogba like Samuel Eto’o believe they can open up local football to foreign investors and thus have funding for development projects.
But according to Salif Bictogo, the president of the Stella Club d’Adjamé (a Ligue 1 team based in Abidjan), being a star does not guarantee that private money will flow into the federation’s coffers: “Drogba has identified the needs and believes that it can provide solutions by highlighting its reputation to attract new economic partners capable of generating income. But these will not invest for her beautiful eyes. They will expect something in return. «
The two men, who entered the business long before the end of their athletic career, are used to negotiating and signing financial contracts. Enough to tip the scales in their favor? « There is a new governance at CAF [Confédération africaine de football], with a billionaire president [le Sud-Africain Patrice Motsepe]. And we can think that the body encourages some former players with a fiber for business to take responsibilities in their countries, slips an Ivorian journalist. To have people close to his ideas in key positions in big federations… ”