“Ex-Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o took a selfie with emotionless Vladimir Putin in Russia,” is the title of an article published on March 1, 2022. The article is illustrated by a photo of Samuel Eto'o smiling beside Vladimir Putin. This picture caused an uproar because of the military offensive being carried out by Russia in Ukraine since February 24.
The picture published in that context seems to be a sign that Samuel Eto'o is supporting Putin in this conflict. The said article even drew a parallel with the former Cameroonian player’s words before the AFCON2021 semi-final against Egypt, where he compared the match to "war".
"Guys, you will have to materialize all your efforts on Thursday… With the same mentality, get ready because it will be war! War, guys! That's how you have to approach this game! [Consider it as] War!" said Eto'o to in the locker room to motivate the Indomitable Lions after Cameroon's victory over Gambia (2-0) in the quarterfinals.
2018 FIFA World Cup
The said images, in fact, predates the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. It was taken on December 1, 2017 at the Kremlin in Moscow, before the 2018 World Cup draw in Russia. The picture was taken by Alexei Nikolsky, a regular photographer in the Kremlin. It was featured in the American image bank Getty Images but seems to have been removed since then. However, it is still online.
In another picture, Samuel Eto’o can be seen in the background pointing at the Russian president who was holding Pele's hand with his right while his left hand rested on the shoulder of Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer star who died on November 25, 2020. Those pictures were taken by Michael Regan, a Getty Images photographer.
In its article, Daily Star points out that the picture it used was taken during the 2018 World Cup draw but the title is controversial.
Several online media have relayed that title. Also, in recent weeks, the picture has been widely shared on Facebook. Some users found them quite amusing going to the extent of saying that Eto'o is "the only person who has managed to make Putin laugh/smile."
Let’s note that Eto'o's selfie with the Russian president was already shared on Facebook in June 2018 and even in December 2021. Also, the former Cameroonian striker, who once played for Russian club FC Anzhi Makhachkala (2011-2013), has not yet openly spoken out about the conflict in Ukraine.