Friday, June 15, 2007

Repercussions of Club vs. Country Row

I haven't the time to write a proper update today (work beckons), but this is in reply to yesterday's article about the African Cup of Nations and its scheduling dilemma.

Seems some European giants are frustrated at losing players for up to 6 weeks due to the African Cup of Nations being scheduled in January.

Two players recently involved are Real Madrid's Mahamadou Diarra and Sevilla's Fréderic Kanouté. Both are Mali internationals involved in Cup of Nations qualifying this weekend and both are vital to their club's championship hopes this last week of football in Spain.

Paul Doyle wrote an excellent article complete with user comments about this strange dilemma.

Today, FIFA ordered the two back to their clubs for their respective title deciders. Usually, FIFA is the first to side with the countries. But in this instance, they've bucked tradition and folded to club demands.

Here's Mr. Doyle's article from today's Guardian Unlimited about this decisive row.

Fifa accused of prejudice against Africa
Mahamadou Diarra blasts 'scandalous Fifa decision'

Paul Doyle
Friday June 15, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

In club-versus-country rows Fifa can generally be relied upon to side with the international team - but not any more, at least not when it comes to Africa.
The world governing body today set a precedent by ordering Mali to retract their selection of Mahamadou Diarra and Frédéric Kanouté for this weekend's African Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone so that the duo may play for their respective clubs on the final day of the Spanish league season.

Fifa reportedly justified its surprising decision by saying this weekend's African fixtures were not provided for in the internationally-agreed calendar. Malian officials have rejected that logic, pointing out that the ACN fixtures were finalised in February 2006, which was before Spanish authorities decided to delay the start of their season to give players extra time off after the World Cup. Furthermore, Fifa's executive committee itself approved the African fixtures last March.
Real Madrid can win La Liga this weekend if they beat Mallorca and had pleaded with the Malian Football Federation not to call up Diarra. Similarly, Sevilla, who hope Kanouté may recover from the injury that kept him out of last week's league match in time for this weekend's clash with Villarreal, are believed to have discreetly lobbied Fifa for permission to prevent the striker going to Mali.

"Fifa has surrendered to pressure from the Spanish clubs," Mali's French manager Jean-François Jodar told L'Equipe. "It seems a little African federation doesn't count as much as Spanish giants".

As for the players, Diarra is furious at being denied the opportunity to help his country reach next year's ACN finals in Ghana. "I understand what Real Madrid did, and they're entitled to protect their interests but Fifa's behaviour is scandalous," said the midfielder. "They've shown a lack of respect for African football and Africa in general.

"I've seen the fax they sent to the Federation yesterday and I don't understand their justification. They claim that if Fred Kanouté and I play against Sierra Leone we could be docked points or Mali could even be thrown out of the competition. National teams are supposed to take precedence over clubs but it seems Fifa has changed its rules a mere 72 hours before a match!

"What's more, Kanouté and I are now in the sh*t because people back home think that it's us who've found a way to avoid playing for our country."

Mouloudia d'Alger and JS Kabylie, who are taking part in this weekend's Algerian Cup semi-final, had also sought permission to retain its Malian internationals (Moussa Coulibaly and Omar Dabo) - but unlike the Spanish request, their pleas were rejected.

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