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Samuel Eto’o: Football’s symbol of hope

Samuel Eto’o: Football’s symbol of hope

Ghana

In the legs of one man, a continent is crying for survival. In those legs have come many laurels, some of which have in the process become life-saving for the many who believe in them.

Those legs are lethal, forceful and philanthropic. Those are the legs of Cameroonian football star Samuel Eto’o.

For the kind of work he does, kicking legs all year round has been the order, and on whose calls to duty he responds to every other day. They’ve paid his bills and that of many.

I’m excited to be home in Africa and proud to see what my brothers in Sierra Leone have achieved in successfully fighting against the Ebola virus. Health is the most important thing in life. With health and a strong dream you can achieve anything in life. Football has an important role to play in educating young girls and boys to live a healthy lifestyle.

Through his exploits, dreams have been harnessed, opportunities have been created and broken souls have been mended.

Eto’o is the living testament of what football – a game that brings millions together – should be used for.

Receiving bucks of many figures comes with an accompanying responsibility. It is sometimes shared; other times carried on one man’s shoulders.

In the last few years gone by, he’s played the role of both lead crusader and helper.

The Samuel Eto’o Foundation, which works in the interest of children in West Africa in education and health has been a shining example of what philanthropy does to people.

The Foundation has produced some incredible talents, some sticking to Eto’o’s natural skill, football. Some of Eto’o’s ‘boys’ play in the youth teams of Barcelona and Malaga.

The four-time African Player of the Year knows what success means and how sometimes it is a hard thing to bargain for, especially in Africa.

But the six figures he received playing for Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, plus having won the African Cup of Nations twice with his country, have only spurred him on to do more good.

This month, he joined FIFA on yet another humanitarian effort – 11 for Health.

As he made his way through the VIP exit routes of the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana’s capital, Accra, only one thing mattered to the Cameroonian football star Samuel Eto’o. Health!

Eto'o in Ghana

Eto’o walked into town with a look expressive of the task ahead; Ebola.

For the locals here, the chance to see an idol and a huge one for that matter in years, and for a worthy cause, brought back a solemn reflection of a calamity that brought them so much fear months ago.

Eto'o in Ghana

Eto’o came to town for the fourth leg of the campaign in the company of FIFA medical chief Prof Jiri Dvorak. Later, they spent some hours with students from the Kotobabi “3” and Alajo “3” JHS to film a special feature for “FIFA 11 for Health”.

The Accra visit and duty call was wrapped up in hours for the Cameroonian who had visited neighbouring Sierra Leone prior to the Ghana leg of the two-country tour.

Eto’o’s visit to Sierra Leone, particularly the Grafton Orphanage in Freetown, was important in all aspects as it coincided with the official declaration by the World Health Organization (who are partners in the campaign) of the West African country as Ebola-free.

“I’m excited to be home in Africa and proud to see what my brothers in Sierra Leone have achieved in successfully fighting against the Ebola virus. Health is the most important thing in life. With health and a strong dream you can achieve anything in life. Football has an important role to play in educating young girls and boys to live a healthy lifestyle,” Eto’o said after rounding up his visit of the West African country.

Eto'o in Ghana

Dvorak underscored the importance of the trip. “It has been an emotional experience witnessing the positive impact that FIFA’s ‘11 against Ebola’ campaign has had on the local communities here in Sierra Leone. When football talks, people tend to listen.

“It is only thanks to the close partnership between the world’s best footballers, the WHO, the World Bank, the Sierra Leone Football Association and the Sierra Leone government that FIFA has been able to contribute to the fight against the virus. A healthy society is fundamental for the wellbeing of a country and we will continue with our objectives by bringing ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ to Sierra Leone and implementing the fourth stage of the programme in Ghana.”

Prof Jiri Dvorak in Ghana

At the very heart of its structure, the 11 for Health campaign “harnesses the power of football and scientific research to inspire girls and boys to lead healthy lifestyles.

“The programme seeks to improve children’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around vital health issues such as HIV, TB, malaria, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. It has been a success in more than 20 countries,” FIFA says.

The visits to West Africa was another day in the office for Eto’o whose humanitarian works has seen him embark on some of the most touching and sensitive subjects plaguing the African continent.

Eto'o in Ghana

In 2006, he set up the Fundación Privada to fight for the interest of children and young people as well as provide emergency aid and encourage education, basic health and social inclusion.

That mandate has so far been executed with Eto’o, 34, leading the crusade. Among other projects, the outfit continues to provide meaning to how useful football can get.

One of such projects is the Yellow Whistle Blower FC initiative which launched in March, and is seeking to raise the needed help for victims of attack by the dreaded Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. The campaign has so far grossed some 76000 pounds in donations, all of which will go to the charity group OXFAM, and the United Nations for the supply and provision of food, shelter and other amenities for the victims.

The Antalyaspor player is living the African dream of one that seeks help from within to help those without.

In his native Cameroon, he continues to be the ‘messiah’ for many. Over the years, he’s provided either directly or supported efforts of others to bring relief to thousands of households. Beneath all the aggression on the pitch, he is a man so kind in heart, so caring. A father for all. Samuel Eto’o.

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