Samuel Eto'o

Cameroon will be ready to stage the 2019 African Nations Cup (AFCON) next year, Samuel Eto’o has told RFI.

Suggestions that Cameroon would not be ready for the tournament, expanded to 24 teams and scheduled in the summer for the first time, have plagued the build-up, with Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad voicing doubts last year.

But Eto’o, Cameroon’s all-time leading goal scorer, said he was certain the tournament will go ahead as planned.

“It will take place in Cameroon. If you had been able to see, in recent days, Cameroon is making an incredible effort,” he said.

“It’s true that the CAF president, at a certain time and wanting to push the Cameroonian state to go faster, said something in the media. I say thank you, because that woke us all up.

“Now, if you arrive in Cameroon, there aren’t only the stadiums, because the Nations Cup also brings infrastructure, roads and raises awareness of the country for a month. Thank you to the CAF for trusting our country.”

Eto’o compared the situation to criticism of preparations in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

“You know, everything is never finished. That’s not only in Cameroon and not only in Africa,” the 37-year-old former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker said.

“In 2014, FIFA was wondering whether the World Cup would take place in Brazil because Brazil wasn’t ready. But in the end Brazil was ready, and that will be the case for Cameroon.”

Limbe, in one of Cameroon’s English-speaking regions in the south-west of the country, is scheduled to host group stage games but has seen separatists wage an armed struggle against the authorities.

“We’re not worried,” Eto’o said. “You know, it’s true that in Cameroon right now there are tensions, but I’m convinced we’ll find common ground because Cameroon is a peaceful country.

We like living together and I’m not worried. I know matches will be played in Limbe. Limbe is 45 minutes from Douala. I live in Douala, and I’m not worried about that.”

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