The Nigerian Football Association (NFA) has asked foreign clubs to release Nigerian players selected to represent the country during the 2008 African Cup of Nations at least two weeks before the kick-off on the 20th of January 2008. The English coach for the Portsmouth club had said earlier on that he intended to release four of its players only a week before the beginning of the competition.
Preparations towards the African Cup of Nations in Ghana from the 20th of January to the 10th of February, has led the Nigerian Football Association to insist on the release of all its selected players for the national team presently playing for foreign clubs, at least two weeks before the start of the games.
According the NFA spokesman, Ademola Olajire; « the FIFA regulation on the release of national players for major competitions is very clear-cut and the NFA intends to adhere to the rule »… « We want all the selected players to be present at the training camp two weeks before kick-off and no demands from any club whatsoever will change our minds on the closing date (January 6) » he continued, warning recalcitrant clubs of FIFA sanctions.
In the UK, France, Spain…
This warning from Mr. Olajire was a reaction against remarks from Mr. Harry Redknapp, the coach for Portsmouth an English first division, where two Nigerian attackers Nwankwo Kanu and John Utaka, Ghana’s Sulley Muntari and Senegal’s Pape Bouba Diop, play professionally. Mr. Harry Redknapp said he would keep the players until a week before the tournament. This type of non-adherent practice has already been experienced before earlier CAN kick-offs, one of those cases involved Augustine Okocha, a Nigerian.
Other European coaches are uncomfortable at the thought of having to do without their main African players from the 20th of January to the 10th of February. The Spanish club, FC Barcelona has to do witjout Samuel Eto’o who only just started playing after an injury break, while Real Madrid and FC Seville will have to make do without Mahamadou Diarra and Frédérique Kanouté, respectively. Moustapha Hadji and Moncef Zerka from Morrocco will be absent from the attack and defence lines, respectively, in their French club Nancy, presently in second place on the National League table.