MANAUS, Brazil, June 17 (Reuters) - Cameroon’s Samuel Eto‘o may be coming to the end of his career but as he showed on Tuesday the captain of the Indomitable Lions still has plenty of desire.
Eto‘o hit out at unspecified enemies he said were trying to undermine the team, saying he would deal with them after the World Cup.
Cameroon soccer has often fallen prey to infighting and intrigues and the players left a day late for the World Cup amid a dispute over bonus payments.
Local media accused the players of being greedy. Eto‘o, who has also had to deal with allegations about his personal life, told a news conference that there were people who clearly wanted the team to fail.
“You can be sure that after the World Cup, I will respond to each and every person who has attacked me. I will give the names of everyone who is behind this story so Cameroonians know who loves and who does not love this country,” he told reporters.
“I‘m telling you - I won’t give in to blackmail. And after the World Cup be sure that these people need to get ready.”
For the time being, though, he vowed to devote everything to a team who started the tournament with a loss to Mexico in Group A and need to beat Croatia on Wednesday.
The fact that coach Volker Finke is even considering playing Eto‘o as a substitute despite a knee injury shows how important the striker is to the team.
The 33-year-old made his international debut in 1997 at the age of just 15. He played in the 1998 World Cup as a 17-year-old and has scored a record 54 goals for Cameroon.
He came on for part of the Mexico game despite the injury.
“They asked me whether I really wanted to play and I said I had the same desire as the 17-year-old boy who pulled on the shirt for the first time (at the World Cup),” he said.
Eto‘o said even if he did not play he wanted to stay with the team.
“The most important thing is that we are a group and yes, it’s true that I am an important member of the group. But this group is more important than me,” he said.
Eto‘o has also had a spectacular club career, winning the Champions League twice with Barcelona and once with Inter Milan.
He said if Cameroon were knocked out of this World Cup in the first round, the squad would stay together.
“The Barcelona team that won so much over the years took more than a decade to build,” he said. (Editing by Ed Osmond)