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AFCON 2023: represent the country or stay in a club, what to choose?

AFCON 2023: represent the country or stay in a club, what to choose?
Guinean fans before the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 match against Equatorial   -  
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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Ivory Coast

For African fans and footballers, there is no doubt about the priority to be given between club and country. However, some European clubs have little sympathy for star players missing midway through the season due to the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.

Victor Osimhen can't play for Napoli as he tries to lead Nigeria to their first title since 2013; Mohamed Salah was injured in his second match for Egypt, dealing a major blow to Liverpool; and Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga challenge was complicated by the absence of four players. 

Leverkusen striker Victor Boniface will be out for several months recovering from a thigh injury sustained during Nigeria's preparation for the tournament.

Stuttgart are without Serhou Guirassy, ​​who scored 17 goals in 14 Bundesliga matches before joining his Guinea teammates. "There's nothing better than playing for your country ," Guirassy told the Associated Press after Guinea's late victory over Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

For African fans, it is a rare chance to see their stars at home, demonstrating the pride and commitment they feel in representing their country, the greatest calling in a football player's career.

“It’s difficult for poor Europeans. But we are happy, ” Ibrahim Coulibaly, Ivory Coast supporter, told the AP. "We are happy because the players came to raise the level of the tournament. Everyone has their own interests. We bring the children, we enjoy life a little, it's always a joy for us . "

Armand Kouassi, an Ivorian who supported Cameroon against Nigeria, also considers that the country is more important than the club. "When you have the honour of being called up for selection, you don't think about money. For me, it's not a lack of respect (for the clubs), it's a patriotic act."

Marina Bouho , an Abidjan native who supported Cape Verde against Mauritania on Monday, says African players were obliged to come back to help their country. “It’s a big competition for Africa and everyone has to come and play,” Ms. Bouho told the AP. "It hurts a lot if they are not allowed. It is bad if obstacles are put in the way of the players. "

FIFA Regional Director for Africa, Gelson Fernandes, points out that clubs should allow African players to represent their country at the Africa Cup, and that they can also benefit from players returning after a good tournament.

“They come back to the club with a lot of energy, positive energy. And that means a lot for the continent,” Fernandes told the AP. "I understand that it is difficult to lose a player, but I also understand that the player is also proud to represent his country."

Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly previously said he did not understand why some people give more respect to clubs than their country. "My choice is to play for my country. If (the club) is not happy, I will find another club."

Geuky Coulibaly confirms that African pride was more important than the financial concerns of clubs and players.

"We must not abandon our origins, even if it involves financial sacrifices. We must always keep the love of our country and respond when the country calls us. This shows that there is a small change in the consciousness of Africans, and that makes me happy."

For Issouf Traoré, it was a small sacrifice for the clubs to release the players. “The country needs them,” Mr. Traoré told the AP_. “Afterwards, by the grace of God, if God gives us the cup and we win in the end, everyone will return to their club with joy.”_

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