Cameroonian footballer Fils Brice Pierre Eto’o is languishing at Harare’s Remand Prison after his prospective employers Gunners Football Club left him in the cold.
BY ALBERT MARUFU
The 23-year-old, who claims to be cousin to former Africa Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o, had come for trials with Gunners FC, but the former Premiership side reneged on their promises.
Eto’o was arrested by the Immigration Department for overstaying in the country as well as losing his travelling documents.
“I have been in prison since December,” said the striker, whose prison number is 6715/12.
Eto’o came to Zimbabwe in September after being promised a good contract by Gunners FC following the suspension of football in Egypt where he was playing for El Gouna.
He claims to have been promised a US$3 000 salary by Gunners president Cuthbert Chitima and team manager Stanley Makombe who financed his trip to Harare in September last year.
Eto’o trained for a week under then Gunners coach Moses Chunga. He had been told that his performance would determine his signing-on fee.
“Everything changed as Gunners now wanted to pay US$700 instead of US$3 000,” he said.
“I refused to sign the contract which they had offered and that is when they told me that a South African club, AmaZulu also wanted to sign me so they were going to share with me by half the proceeds from the deal.”
He added that he was denied entry into South Africa as he had no visa.
“I had enquired about the visa but Makombe told me that everything will be sorted at the border,” he said.
“At Beitbridge Border, we were refused entry into South Africa and warned against overstaying as my days were coming to an end. Makombe promised to sort out my residence permit.”
Eto’o said Gunners then stopped paying for his lodgings at Executive Hotel where they had booked him and still owe the lodge about US$686,50.
“I then approached a lady at Zifa offices who took me to the Zifa Village. I stayed there for three days, but was not happy because it is far from town.
“I then came back to Zifa and told them that I wanted to go home. They called Makombe who gave me US$500 for an air ticket, but the air ticket costs US$800. By that time my visa had already expired,” he said.
He said AmaZulu then contacted him with a view to assess him. “AmaZulu called me and I explained my visa situation and they asked me to go to the South African Embassy where I met a conman who duped me and stole my passport as well as $500.
I reported the case at Harare Central Police Station,” he said.
Eto’o then went to the Immigration Department where he was arrested and has been behind bars ever since.
“I have been in prison since December and no one has visited me, save for Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze.”
Eto’o said he would take up the matter with Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Fifa if he got out of prison.
“Zifa should look after foreign players. I will report to CAF about what is happening in Zimbabwe. I am a soccer player and not a criminal. I am angry and can even kill. My wife Christen and two kids — Junior Eto’o [one year seven months] and six months old Phipou — are suffering back home and do not even know that I am jailed,” he said.
“If there is a way, please let my cousin Samuel, who is in Russia, know that I am in prison. My father Pierre is the older brother of Samuel’s father David. Right now there is no way I can contact them because I am in prison.”
Makombe acknowledged knowing the player but expressed surprise that he was still in the country.
“Is there any problem with him? Is he still around?” he asked.
When told that the player was at Harare Remand Prison, Makombe said; “Ah this guy. Ok call me in 15 minutes time and I will give you all the details.” Makombe later said he was busy doing a radio programme.
Harare Remand Prison Chief Superintended Billiot Chibaya said their role was just to keep the prisoners while waiting for the Immigration Department to deport them.
Immigration spokesperson Patricia Mafodya said the Immigration department did not care about how the person came into the country and just made arrests, as long as the person was an illegal immigrant.
“When we arrest illegal immigrants, we do not look at their professions or who brought them into the country. We just arrest them and when they have the money for air tickets or bus fare, we then deport them,” she said.
Mashingaidze confirmed Eto’o’s plight and promised to get him out of prison by Tuesday.
“This is a sad situation and we are going to deal with Gunners. It destroys the image of the country. Imagine if it was our own player languishing in a foreign jail? I saw the player and he looks traumatised. There is need to tighten rules on foreign players coming for trials in the future,” he said.