Already the target of a CAF investigation, the powers of Cameroon's soccer boss, Samuel Eto'o, have just been weakened by a series of rulings from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Samuel Eto'o in the midst of a storm
Samuel Eto'o finds himself embroiled in a new storm. A few days ago, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced the opening of an investigation against him. At the helm of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fécafoot) for just under twenty months, the soccer icon is experiencing a series of legal setbacks that are clouding his tenure.
A decisive CAS ruling
On November 21, 2022, Guibaï Gatama, a suspended member of the Fécafoot Executive Committee under the leadership of Samuel Eto'o, together with other local soccer stakeholders, took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Their objective: to invalidate the resolutions adopted at the Fécafoot General Assembly on August 27, 2022. These resolutions had ratified various points, including the suspension of Kouedem François from the presidency of the Western Regional League, the dismissal of Guibaï Gatama from the Executive Committee, the election of new members of the jurisdictional commissions and the dissolution of the Professional Football League of Cameroon (LFPC).
After nine months of hearings, the CAS delivered its verdict on August 15, 2023: "the Court of Arbitration for Sport, ruling contradictorily (...) declares that the resolutions adopted at the General Assembly of the Cameroon Football Federation on August 27, 2022 are null and void". In short, this CAS decision annuls the contentious resolutions of the body headed by Samuel Eto'o, reinstating Guibaï Gatama on the Fécafoot Executive Committee and François Kouedem as head of the Western Regional League. It also cancels the dissolution of the LFPC and reinstates all the judicial bodies elected in August 2021, whose mandates had been revoked.
Samuel Eto'o's entourage was quick to react, asserting the serenity in their camp. On the other hand, satisfaction was palpable among the plaintiffs. Guibaï Gatama expressed his joy, pointing out that CAS had upheld their claims. "I am delighted by the triumph of the law and the reaffirmation of respect for the Statutes and Regulations as the cornerstone of the sporting governance that soccer's stakeholders so earnestly desire," he declared.
Towards a vacancy in the presidency?
The CAS application was also an opportunity for the plaintiffs to raise the issue of a vacancy in the Fécafoot presidency, following Samuel Eto'o's sentencing to 20 months in prison in Spain for tax fraud in June 2022. However, the arbitration panel ruled that, in the absence of a decision by Fécafoot's Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on the matter, the conditions for declaring the vacancy had not been met. Accordingly, responsibility for establishing the vacancy was referred to a Fécafoot EGM.