Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz is unhappy with former Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o’s comments that compared the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final between the two countries to a war.
A video published on the official Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) Facebook page shows a speech by Eto’o, who is now its president, where he uses the word ‘war’ more than once when referring to the game.
The former Barcelona striker, 40, was talking in the Cameroon dressing room shortly after the quarter-final win over The Gambia, but his choice of words has not gone down well with Queiroz.
“It’s a very unfortunate comment, a very bad approach, a very bad message to the people of Cameroon,” the 68-year-old said.
“To make this declaration of war before one game [shows he] didn’t learn anything when he was in professional football.
“Football is not about war. Football is about celebration, it’s about joy, it’s about happiness.”
Alluding to the fatal crush at the Olembe Stadium which killed eight people on Monday, 24 January, Quieroz added: “He forgot that people died at the stadium [a few] days ago.”
Egypt face the Indomitable Lions on Thursday (19:00 GMT).
Afcon ‘should create honour and dignity’
The comments from Eto’o, who was elected Fecafoot president in December, come as Cameroon’s south-west region continues to be affected by armed conflict.
Since 2017 local militants have pursued a separatist agenda, hoping to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia, and more than a million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Queiroz, who has managed Real Madrid, Portugal and Iran as well as an as assistant manager to former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, says he and his team have their own answer to the comments.
“To the war that was proposed by Mr Eto’o – we are going to answer with the best football, the best attitude, the best quality because this what the people expect from us,” Queiroz insisted.
“This is what the world wants – the Africa Cup of Nations to create honour, dignity – it cannot be a war – give me a break.
“I think it is something I will leave to Caf [the Confederation of African Football] because one comment like this deserves a red card.”
Former international Samuel Eto’o is now the president of the Cameroon Football Federation
Queiroz called on Eto’o to retract his use of the word war.
“I am making an appeal to Mr Eto’o, who played professional football, to correct his words because this cannot be a war,” he continued.
“Football is a celebration, it’s happiness and we have the honour to put the hands together with Cameroon and produce a fantastic football show – that’s our job.”
In the same interview Queiroz criticised some section of the Egyptian media for trying to undermine the squad and insisted that his team are united despite what he called “too many rumours and lies”.
He went on to say his team were playing for the Egyptian fans and they should “not be used by the media”.
A fine and a rejection
Meanwhile, the Egypt Football Association has been fined $100,000 by Caf for breaching media protocols and directives.
The sanction was imposed after Egypt failed to appear for a press conference on 29 January to preview their quarter-final tie against Morocco.
Half of the fine has been suspended, provided the Pharaohs are not found guilty of a similar breach at this year’s Nations Cup.
Caf has also rejected a request from the EFA that Gambian referee Bakary Gassama should not be in charge of their semi-final game against Cameroon.
The EFA had not elaborated on why it was unhappy with his appointment but Caf has confirmed he will take charge of the match.
“The committee will choose its best referees to play big games. Just like the team will play with their best players,” a Caf source told BBC Sport Africa.
“The referees committee is an independent body who decides. We remain focused to deliver a good performance.”