YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon hero Roger Milla believes new coach Jean-Paul Akono can persuade striker Samuel Eto‘o to return for their decisive African Nations Cup playoff second leg at home to Cape Verde next month.
Cameroon suspended French coach Denis Lavagne following an embarrassing 2-0 first-leg defeat this month and drafted in Akono to try to avoid missing out of a second straight Nations Cup in South Africa in January.
Eto‘o, four-times African player of the year, refused to join the Indomitable Lions for the away leg at the unheralded islanders because of what he perceived as the bad management of Cameroon football.
However, the Anzhi Makhachkala forward, 31, could make a return for the second leg on October 14 in Yaounde.
“I know Jean-Paul Akono very well because we played together in the national team and worked as a team to train the Cameroon military football team,” former national striker Milla, 60, told Reuters.
“He is very hard-working and enjoys my full support. He has the ability to change the face of the national team by bringing back all valuable players including key striker Samuel Eto‘o, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Jean Makoun.”
Milla, who made his name when Cameroon became the first African side to reach a World Cup quarter-final in 1990, called on his countrymen to get behind the side.
“For him to succeed as Cameroon national coach he also needs the support of all Cameroonians of goodwill...That is why I am also seizing this opportunity to call on the public to turn out massively for the return game against Cape Verde Island next month,” said Cameroon’s football ambassador.
”Again, one thing I am insisting upon is that he must be provided all the necessary working tools and means. History shows that when a Cameroonian is appointed to coach the national team he is not provided the same means as a foreigner.
“I am therefore appealing to the current Sports and Physical Education minister to change that mentality and provide Jean-Paul Akono all he needs.”
Despite his praise for Akono, the man voted by the African football federation (CAN) as the continent’s best player in the 20th century still believes Cameroon will miss out on January’s tournament by failing to overturn the 2-0 deficit.
“With him, I am very sure we will win the return match even if we may not score enough goals to qualify for the 2013 African Nations Cup in South Africa,” Milla said.
In an interview with the Cameroon Tribune daily, Akono said progress had been made on Eto‘o rejoining the squad.
“I have already had a telephone conversation with him. I believe we are on the right track,” he said.
“He loves his country and his country needs him. I think he’ll be there for the match in October. I am counting on him like I count on the futures of other players like Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Jean Makoun.”