Some two years ago, on the sidelines of the Confederations Cup, a group of us sports writers under the leadership of one of the best sports writers in Africa, David Legge, were given a task, where the eventual winning journalist would get a special seat at the Cup final.
One of the tasks involved pronouncing the name Anzhi Makhachkala. We all complained and wanted to know what type of soccer jersey or football formation that was before we attempted and failed to pronounce it.
This week I read, “Samuel Eto’o completed his £20m (N$235m) move to Anzhi Makhachkala on Wednesday.”
Odd. Eto’o, still one of the best forwards in the world, going to a place whose name sounds like a street of Tripoli.
Eto’o is now criticised for destroying his career.
But for £340,000 (N$4 million) a week can you blame him?
Eto’o will earn $60m (N$700million) in three years. He has already won three Champions Leagues, two African Cup of Nations and numerous other competitions. He has nothing to prove.
It’s time to make some money and help promote football in the volatile region of Caucasus at the same time.
It was suggested Manchester City and Inter Milan might swap Eto’o for Carlos Tevez and it seemed perfectly rational.
Eto’o might be 30 but he is still one of the world’s best forwards and perhaps that is why his move is being criticised. But why do we hate people who love money? Eto’o loves money and I love money. He is doing this for the money. That phrase, ‘for the love of the game’ is history in today’s society.
Soon the, ‘for the love of the nation’ theme will be eroded by money. Money conquers everything. Eto’o is risking his national team career by going deep in Southern Russia, but what’s left for him in the Indomitable Lions that he can’t prove?
Imagine that Ruud Gullit has just finished a stint in Chechenya of all places. Tony Adams is somewhere out there too, I’m told.
In the next 20 years, there is every chance that the world’s top footballers will be doing their stuff in China, India, Russia, even Africa, rather more of the same in Europe. Who thought John Barnes would fail to coach and choose a job to talk on TV in SA?
Some media has lashed out at Eto’o for not going to the USA where Thierry, Keane, Becks, and others are. But to me, this is Eto’o’s LA Galaxy moment, only he opted for a hotbed of racism and being based in a region best known for terrorism rather than Beverly Hills.
With the likes of Roberto Carlos, former Chelsea midfielder Yuri Zhirkov, the former PSV midfielder Balazs Dzsudzsak, Diego Tardelli and the Moroccan Mbark Boussoufa at Anzhi there should be enough quality for him to score.
The challenge for Eto’o is not scoring goals or his career; it will be how he endures the Russia’s racism.
I believe the Russian Government was involved in Eto’o’s move because they want a good picture of the 2018 World Cup and Eto’o has survived all kinds of racist elements in Spain, so it won’t be a problem in Russia. And you don’t need him at a big club; send him to a small club. Another monkey, Roberto Carlos is also at Anzhi.
Eto’o moved to Spain at 16, ignored the abuse, left Real Madrid for a small team, ignored the abuse, joined Barca and tormented Madrid in every game he played amid the abuse, ignored the abuse, moved to Italy, played out of position won three cups, ignored the abuse. What more can touch Papa Eto’o? He is the only player who could score at Barca and celebrate hitting his arm (showing skin colour) and not kissing his badge. Remember the Champions League final goal celebration against Man U?
Of course, it would be wrong to portray every Russian crowd as snarling right-wing, banana throwers, but it would equally be inaccurate to suggest that racism is not an issue, as Roberto Carlos found in an away game at Krylya Sovetov when bananas were thrown and he was subjected to monkey-chants recently.
Zhirkov was reportedly left in tears after being booed during Russia’s friendly against Serbia last month, apparently perceived by ultra-nationalist fans as having betrayed Russia by joining a club from the Caucasus.
But money conquers fear. Two seasons of shit and Eto’o can spend the rest of his life living larger than Gadaffi.
Eto’o is not desperate for money. He has billions. Even billionaires when given the option always choose more money. Eto’o is not some greedy exception; humans are just sadly predictable when it comes to money. I was telling my colleagues a story about how he forgot his Lamborghini in a parking lot last season.
All he needs to do is show the world that the world’s highest paid player is black, and is playing in a country considered racist, the same country hosting the 2018 Football World Cup. By 2018, he will be 37 and an ambassador for Russia’s World Cup showpiece. Expect a speech from him at the opening ceremony. Welcome to football politics.
He could easily get €150,000 in one of Europe’s top leagues; say at Man City that would still make him rich beyond necessity. But for now it is not about career, it is about business. Eto’o has achieved everything at club level many times over; he’s earned the right to chase the coin now.
Anzhi was founded in 1991, they have no history. They reached the Premier League in 1999 and was relegated three years later, only returning to the top flight in 2009. Last season they finished eleventh; and a general inconsistency of performance this season is not the reason why the owner, Suleiman Kerimov, wants to spend more.
With the coming Russian World Cup in 2018, vile abuse of perhaps the best footballer in the country on the basis of his skin colour would be a source of considerable shame and embarrassment. It would be much harder for the powers that be to dismiss it as muck raking by rivals (as they did during the bidding process) and the standard response ‘But Russia is itself a diverse and multi-ethnic country!’ would be exposed as empty cant. So Eto’o would be very good at forcing the game and the country to take a look in the mirror, especially if he takes a stand against any abuse he receives.
Of course, many players have chosen England purely because of the money. Tevez, for one. But do you think, he would stand a Russian crowd? Only Eto’o can?
Anzhi plays home matches in Makhachkala, an away game against CSKA or Spartak thus involves a journey of around 1,500km, I see Eto’o continuing to live in Milan and flying to Russia for games aboard Kerimov’s private jet.
Kerimov, with a fortune of around £4.7bn, according to Forbes, is the reason why I think the Russian government is behind Eto’o’s move. In late 1999, Kerimov formed a business alliance with Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska. The three became notorious for their aggressive takeovers. Abramovich bought Chelsea, funds the Russian state youth academy at Togliatti, contributed to funds to pay for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. Deripaska has been linked with takeovers of Arsenal and West Bromwich.
Anjy Mahachkala is how David Legge said we must pronounce Anzhi Makhachkala. Hope Gadaffi is dead or captured by the time you read this, so that I can write about him and Juventus.
With my team Tottenham losing like this, what more could I be writting about?