Eto’o earned his first cap with Cameroon one day before his 16th birthday on 9 March 1997, in a 5–0 friendly loss to Costa Rica. In 1998, he was the youngest participant in the 1998 FIFA World Cup when he appeared in a 3–0 group stage loss to Italy on 17 June 1998, at the age of 17 years and three months. Eto’o scored his sole goal of the 2002 FIFA World Cup when he netted the game-winner against Saudi Arabia during the group stage on 6 June 2002, which was Cameroon’s only win of the competition. Eto’o was a part of the squads that won the 2000 and 2002 Africa Cup of Nations, and was a gold medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics. At the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup, in which Cameroon finished as runners-up, he scored his only goal in a 1–0 group stage upset of Brazil on 19 June. Cameroon were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations after Eto’o missed the decisive penalty in a 12–11 penalty shootout loss to Ivory Coast following a 1–1 draw, but he nonetheless finished as the top scorer of the tournament with five goals. He missed a team practice before the quarter-finals to attend the CAF African Footballer of the Year award ceremonies in Togo. In the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Eto’o became joint leading goalscorer (along with Laurent Pokou) in the competition’s history after scoring his 14th goal with a penalty against Zambia on 26 January 2008. In the following game against Sudan, on 30 January, Eto’o converted another penalty to become the tournament’s all-time leading scorer, followed by another goal in the same match that took his Cup of Nations tally to 16. He finished as the top scorer for the second consecutive tournament, matching his 2006 total of five goals. On 1 June 2008, Eto’o headbutted reporter Philippe Bony following an incident at a press conference. Bony suffered an injury, but Eto’o later apologized for the altercation, offering to pay Bony’s medical expenses. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Gabon, Eto’o scored a goal in the 68th minute. He followed it up with another goal in the home fixture. He led the scoring chart with eight qualification goals. Eto’o scored in the World Cup qualification match against Morocco to win Cameroon a spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament. On 19 June 2010, Eto’o scored a goal in Cameroon’s 2010 World Cup group stage match against Denmark, from a mistake by Christian Poulsen. Cameroon eventually lost the game 2–1 and was eliminated from the World Cup. Eto’o described it as the biggest disappointment of his career. In December 2010, Eto’o became the first man to be named African Player of the Year for a fourth time. On 16 December 2011, Eto’o was suspended 15 games by the Cameroonian Football Federation, after the team refused to play a friendly against Algeria earlier in the year. The ban was reduced to eight months in January 2012, meaning Eto’o would only miss four competitive matches. The change was brought about after Cameroon President Paul Biya asked officials to reconsider the controversial sanction. On 27 August 2012, Eto’o was in the squad to face Cape Verde in the first leg of a qualification play-off for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, but the striker refused to play, as a protest against what he described as the “amateurish and poorly organised” national team set-up. After an intervention from Cameroon Prime Minister Philemon Yang, Eto’o agreed to return for the second leg. However, Eto’o’s return was not enough for Cameroon to overturn a 0–2 first leg deficit, and the Indomitable Lions failed to qualify for the Cup of Nations. On 23 March 2013, Eto’o scored his first goal for Cameroon in 16 months with a penalty kick against Togo in a 2014 World Cup qualifier. He went on to score an 82nd minute winning goal in the same match, sending Cameroon to the top of their qualifying group. In November 2013, he captained the team in their 4–1 aggregate defeat of Tunisia in the play-off to secure World Cup qualification. In June 2014, Eto’o was selected in Cameroon’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, becoming the third African to participate in four tournaments after compatriots Jacques Songo’o and Rigobert Song. After joining Everton, on 27 August 2014, Eto’o announced his retirement from international competition. Eto’o was crowned paramount chief in Kaffu Bullom, a chiefdom in Sierra Leone in November 2015. He was visiting Sierra Leone as part of the FIFA “11 for Health and 11 against Ebola” programme in the country. Eto’o is a native of Nkon, a suburb of Yaoundé. He made his first steps in the district of Mvog-Ada, one of the most deprived of the Cameroonian capital. He has two brothers who are also footballers: David and Étienne. Eto’o has four children: Maelle, Étienne, Siena and Lynn. He married his longtime sweetheart Georgette on 6 July 2007. Georgette is the mother of Siena and Lynn, who both live with her in Paris. On 9 November 2020, Eto’o was involved in a car accident, when his 4×4 had a head-on collision with a bus. It was said that Eto’o was unhurt from the accident. The driver of the bus tried to escape the scene before being apprehended and taken to a police station. Eto’o has experienced racial abuse in some away matches. He is one of several high-profile contemporary players to have reacted to the abuse by threatening to leave the pitch and being outspoken in criticism of their experiences. In February 2005, during an away match with Real Zaragoza, Eto’o was the subject of racist taunts by Zaragoza supporters, who began making monkey-like chants onto the pitch whenever he had possession of the ball. Referee Fernando Carmona Méndez, however, made no mention of the incidents in his match report, commenting only that the behavior of the crowd was “normal”; two of the abusers were caught and given five-month sporting-event bans after being identified to police by other spectators. Eto’o later declared that the punishment was insufficient and that La Romareda should have been closed for at least one year, but his manager Frank Rijkaard, also of African origin, told him to concentrate on football and stop talking about the incident. Infuriated again by Zaragoza fans’ racist chants the following season, however, Eto’o attempted to walk off the pitch in protest. His teammates intervened and convinced him to continue playing. After experiencing regular racist abuse from sections of support in Spanish crowds, Eto’o stopped bringing family members to matches. He stated, “It is something that has affected me personally. I think players, leaders, and the media have to join forces so that no one feels looked down upon because of the colour of their skin. At this moment in time I prefer my children don’t go to football matches. In the stands they have to listen to things that are difficult to explain to a child. It is better they aren’t exposed to it.” On 17 October 2010, in a Serie A game against Cagliari, after just three minutes of play, the referee halted the match to give a warning to some Cagliari fans who were singing racist chants towards Eto’o. After play was resumed, the rest of the stadium chanted loudly in an attempt to drown out the racist chants in order to avoid the match being suspended. Inter went on to win 1–0 with an Eto’o goal in the 39th minute.