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MAPUTO - Cameroonian star striker Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona FC enthralled young footballers in Mozambique last Wednesday, where he spent the day coaching kids on the finer points of the game and impressing upon them the transformative power of sport.
Around 400 youngsters from across the country packed a football field in Maputo to learn from the three-time African Player of the Year as part of the Omo 10/10 soccer schools for life programme.
Omo is a washing powder brand, owned by consumer goods giant Unilever. The soccer schools give kids from poor African communities the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the sport.
Eto'o arrived in Mozambique on Tuesday to a hero's welcome from hundreds of cheering fans at Maputo Airport, and was then whisked downtown to mingle with locals and sign autographs in an up-market shopping mall.
"It is a pleasure to be here in Mozambique," the 27-year-old player told reporters. "When I was offered the opportunity, I seized it for it has always been my dream to come and share my emotions with these kids."
Eto'o told the kids he felt at home in the impoverished former Portuguese colony because "before being a Cameroonian, I'm an African".
"When I was a kid, I met big stars such as Roger Mila, Francois Oman Biyik and George Weah, who inspired me," he said. "I'm here today because I recognise the role an idol can play in the future of a child"
The Omo campaign aims to remove the "stain" of underdevelopment in Africa by empowering children through sport.
Sport is not just about winning, Eto'o said. "It's fundamental to building a better person and a better tomorrow, as it moulds communication and solidarity from a tender age." Eto'o has been to Kenya and Uganda with the programme. After Mozambique, he goes to Ghana. - Sapa-DPA