Senegal’s football authorities have accused Watford of refusing to release Ismaila Sarr for this month’s Africa Cup of Nations, and will seek FIFA’s help.
The announcement by the Senegalese football federation comes amid an ongoing debate about English teams denying or delaying the departure of African players for the competition.
Watford informed the country’s football association on Friday that the highly rated midfielder would not be released for the tournament in Cameroon, which begins next Sunday and where Senegal is one of the favourites.
“The English club Watford notified on the basis of spurious arguments its decision to block the player Ismaila Sarr, who has expressed his desire to join the Senegalese selection for the Cup of Nations,” said a statement signed by the Senegal Football Federation General Secretary Victor Seh Cisse.
“The FSF [Senegal football governing body] responded immediately to confirm the player’s call-up and the club’s obligation to release the player by no later than January 3.”
Ian Wright, a former England international, said last month that he was outraged by some of the media’s coverage of the 24-team event, which he regarded as tainted with bigotry.
“There are players getting asked if they will be honouring the call-ups to their national teams. Imagine if that was an England player representing the Three Lions. Can you imagine the furore?”
Former French international and Crystal Palace coach Patrick Vieira agreed with Wright and appealed for the tournament to be treated with more respect. Vieira went on to urge European journalists to pay more attention to the competition:
“I believe that that competition needs to be more respected – because this competition is as important as the European Championships,”
Watford has not responded, but this isn’t the first time they’ve had a run-in with an African football body.
The bottom-placed Premier League team has already refused to let Nigeria striker Emmanuel Dennis to join up with his country, claiming that the Nigerian Football Federation did not call him up in time, missing the deadline to notify the club of his selection.
Senegal however, would take the matter up with FIFA if “Watford persists in its deliberate refusal to release the player”.
“The FSF wishes to express its deep condemnation of the disrespectful, pernicious and discriminatory behaviour of Watford who seek by all means to prevent a player from playing with his national team.”
“Africa, its football and its footballers deserve the same respect as that accorded to other continents, confederations and players. The FSF will take all the necessary action to ensure that the basic right of its footballers to play for their country is respected.”
Source: Aljazeera Sport