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Monday, March 1, 2021

How Samuel Eto’o helped Cameroon’s ex-captain Norbert Owona

Sixty-seven year-old former captain of Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, Norbert Owona told the BBC that the ex-Barcelona and Chelsea striker had recently visited him on a trip home.

Nobert who has been homeless for two years, has thanked Samuel Eto’o Fils for promising him a new house.

Eto’o, who now plays for Qatar Sports Club, heard about the 67-year-old’s plight after a documentary showed him sleeping on the streets of Douala, the main city in Cameroon.

Owona is now in hospital and waiting to have surgery on a hernia.

BBC Pidgin’s Leocadia Bongben in the capital, Yaounde, said the former Indomitable Lion sounded weak but grateful on the phone.

“Eto’o Fils is a very kind man, very kind,” he told her.

He added that the 37-year-old football star, a four-time African footballer of the year, had given him about $1,000 (£750) as well as promising to give him a new house.

“I have been homeless with no food to eat,” he said.

The visit took place on Sunday 19 August at a hospital in the city of Douala, where Owona had been admitted after the documentary aired on Cameroon’s Equinoxe Television earlier this month.

It showed footage of the former Union of Douala player sleeping rough and explaining that he had spent all his savings on medical treatment for his family.

After his wife and two children died, he was destitute and had been unable to find help – despite letters to government ministers asking for financial and medical assistance.

But after the television programme, African Synergy, a charity set up by Cameroon’s First Lady Chantal Biya, stepped in to organise his admittance to hospital.

The former footballer told the BBC he also had painful wounds on his feet, making it difficult for him to walk.

Hard times for veterans

During the documentary, Owona had said his favourite footballing memory was seeing former President Amadou Ahidjo breaking security protocol and running towards him to celebrate his two goals scored against Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1972.

It was an Africa Cup of Nations match, which Cameroon won 5-2, giving them third place in the tournament.

“If former President Ahidjo were alive, I would not be suffering like this,” he told the BBC.

Joseph Kamga, another former Cameroon international, told the BBC that Owona was not the only Indomitable Lion veteran to be facing hard times.

“The situation of some of my team-mates is beyond description,” said Kamga, who played at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

But Owona’s situation has spurred the sports authorities into action, he added.

The Cameroon Football Academy is now discussing a project to help former players become coaches or go into football management, our reporter says.

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