AFCON: European Clubs Threaten To Withhold Players
Europe’s top clubs are threatening not to release players for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon over fears surrounding its Covid-19 health protocol.
The European Club Association, which represents leading clubs across the continent, made its concerns known to FIFA in a letter seen by AFP.
“With regards to applicable protocols, as far as we are aware, CAF (the Confederation of African football) has not yet made available a suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament, in the absence of which clubs will not be able to release players for the tournament,” the ECA told football’s world governing body.
The Cup of Nations, which was already postponed last year due to the health crisis, is due to start in Cameroon on January 9 and run until February 6.
Many of Africa’s leading players are based at clubs in Europe, including Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, Achraf Hakimi, and Idrissa Gana Gueye of Paris Saint-Germain.
The ECA also raised concerns about the danger of players being unavailable for even longer periods due to the potential for travel restrictions or mandatory quarantine being introduced, in particular in relation to the emerging threat posed by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
According to FIFA’s rules for the release of players for international duty during the pandemic, clubs can retain players if “there is a mandatory quarantine of at least five days on arrival” in the place “where a national team match is supposed to take place” or when the player returns to his club.
An executive board meeting of the ECA — which represents almost 250 European clubs — on December 2 said these principles “must be strictly respected”, according to the letter sent to FIFA Deputy Secretary General Mattias Grafstroem.
“Should this not be the case…players (should) not be released for international duty”.
Clubs could lose players who are called up for the 24-team tournament from as early as December 27, which is particularly problematic for those based in England, where there is a busy schedule of matches over the holiday period in late December and early January.
“For certain clubs expected to release players, including English and French clubs, domestic competition matches are due to take place up until early January and hence the overlap of the 2022 AFCON release dates…are unmanageable,” added the ECA, whose chairman is Qatar’s Nasser al-Khelaifi, also the president of PSG.
CAF general secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba is currently in Cameroon overseeing final preparations for the delayed tournament.
The organisation refused to comment on the ECA threat when contacted by AFP but, in an update on its website, said that Mosengo-Omba “urged everyone to work around the clock to ensure that everything is in place for the opening game”.
However, the pandemic would appear to pose a far bigger threat to the successful staging of the tournament than concerns about the host nation’s readiness.
The CAF update said its president, Patrice Motsepe, had been in discussions with the Cameroonian government “on sanitary approach and Covid-19 protocols”.
When contacted by AFP, a senior official in the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) dismissed any suggestion the tournament could be called off as “fake news”.
U20WC: Flying Eagles Crash Out To South Korea
Nigeria have bowed out of the 2023 U-20 World Cup after slumping to a 1-0 defeat against South Korea on Sunday.
The Flying Eagles enjoyed the earlier exchanges but failed to make them count in the quarter-final clash.
While the game ended barren after normal time, it only took South Korea five minutes into the extra time to head home the lone goal of the match.
Coach Ladan Bosso’s men dominated the game, especially in the first half and the latter part of the match. They had five corners in the first half, a credence to their dominance.
One of Nigeria’s earlier efforts in the game was via AC Milan’s star Victor Eletu. However, Kim Joonhong parried his shot away for a corner kick.
As the game wore on, the Flying Eagles continued to press for a goal but the South Koreans dealt with their threats. The first half ended with no team able to break the deadlock.
When the second-half hostilities began, Coach Bosso made some switches, throwing in fresh legs as the 2005 runners-up battled to get a goal.
Both sides grew into the game with South Korea opening up more unlike in the first half. However, none could find the net.
But when the game went into extra time, Choi Seok-Hyun needed just five minutes to head in the winner from a corner kick as he flicked the ball past Kingsley Aniagboso.
Nigeria were inches close to a leveller in the second half of extra time but Umeh Emmanuel’s effort at the edge of the box flew over the crossbar.
He had another opportunity to make amends. Again, his shot could only find the side net in the 120th minute.
South Korea held on in added time to seal their second win in three meetings over Nigeria at this level.
The Asians will now play Italy in the semi-finals of the competition taking place in Argentina.
Osimhen Becomes First African To Win Serie A Golden Boot
Victor Osimhen has won the Serie A Golden Boot for scoring the highest number of goals in the 2022/23 campaign. The feat makes him the first African to scoop the prize.
The Napoli star scored 26 goals in 32 matches, edging his closest rival Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez to land the highly coveted “Capocannoniere” prize.
Osimhen had already scored 25 goals before Napoli’s Sunday game against Sampdoria. He then scored from the spot to add one more strike to his tally as his club won 2-0.
“This season has been brilliant for me, for my teammates, and for Napoli. We deserved this,” Osimhen told DAZN before discussing whether he might leave in a big-money summer move.
“I don’t know, the president has to decide that. I love the people of Napoli, they have shown me so much love. For me, I don’t mind, the president decides and I will just go with the flow.”
The Nigerian’s goals were instrumental as the club clinched their first league title in 33 years and their third overall.
Earlier, the Super Eagle scooped the Best Striker award for the season for his efforts.
Sunday’s award comes after years of attempts by Africans to win the prize. While the continent’s only Ballon d’Or winner George Weah played in Italy, he could not win it.
Osimhen’s compatriot Simy Nwankwo challenged for the Capocannoniere in the 2020/21 campaign. He scored 20 league goals for Crotone but finished nine strikes behind eventual winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’s appeared to be the closest to landing the gong in the 2010/2011 season.
He netted 21 league goals which were five shy of Napoli’s Edinson Cavani’s strikes and 7 behind the winner Antonio Di Natale of Udinese who scored 28 goals.
Golden Eaglets Out Of U17 AFCON, Fail To Qualify For World Cup
Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets crashed out of the under 17 AFCON 2023 after falling 2-1 to fellow West Africans Burkina Faso in the quarter-finals in Algiers.
The result meant the Golden Eaglets won’t feature in the under 17 World Cup that would take place later this year, with Burkina Faso completing the quartet of teams to represent Africa in the tournament.
The other teams are Senegal, Mali and Morocco.
The Nigerians have their poor finishing skills and defensive blunders to blame for the result.
The Junior Stallions went into a 2-0 lead over the five-time world champions courtesy of Aboubacar Camara.
He first found the back of the net from a rebound just before half time before completing his brace on 57 minutes from the penalty spot after a goal-bound Burkinabe player was fouled inside the box.
Abubakar Abdullahi, however, pulled one back for Nigeria midway through the second half with a simple tap in giving the Eaglets a hope of comeback.
But it was not to be as the young Nigerians failed to convert any chance in front of goal to pull level.
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