Al-Shabab deny blocking Ighalo AFCON trip – blames NFF

Ighalo

Al-Shabab has blamed the NFF for Odion Ighalo's absence from the Super Eagles squad.

The Saudi Arabian club insists that the letter from NFF did not arrive within the stipulated period by FIFA.

The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Saturday, January 9, and almost every participating nation is ready for the tournament. Almost – except, perhaps Nigeria.

The Super Eagles have had a running battle with European clubs to get some of their players to hit the camp for Cameroon. The case of Emmanuel Dennis and Watford is still fresh in the memory, as Watford denied blocking the forward from joining the Super Eagles. The Premier League blamed the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for his absence. In the end, Emmanuel Dennis was exempt from the Super Eagles.

25 Super Eagles players landed in Garoua on Wednesday night to kick off the quest for a fourth Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title. The players were in high spirits as they left, but there were notable absences in the squad.

Jamilu Collins, Tyrone Ebuehi and Odion Ighalo were the only players absent.

Ighalo out of AFCON

The rumour mill is in overdrive over the absence of Odion Ighalo from the Super Eagles squad to Cameroon.

The Saudi Arabia club has explained why Odion Ighalo will not be at AFCON. According to Majid Al-Marzouki, Al-Shabab's director of professionalism, the club is not behind the failure of the player to join the Super Eagles for the tournament. Al-Marzouki claims they did not stand in the way of the player going to AFCON.

AL-Shabab has made it clear that Ighalo will not be in Cameroon for the tournament because the Nigeria Football Federation sent his invitation letter late. The club claims that the letter of invitation did not arrive within the period specified by FIFA. For this, Al-Marzouki said that the club had to stop Ighalo from joining up with the squad.

It means that the Super Eagles of Nigeria will be at AFCON, one player short.

Worry for Eguavoen, and sticking by the rules

Many are concerned with the embarrassing situation the NFF has plunged the Super Eagles.

The 2021/22 season has been excellent for Ighalo. The striker has been in superb form scoring freely for Al-Shabab. He has scored 11 goals in the Saudi Pro League and is a vital cog for Al-Shabab. Al-Shabab was desperate to keep him from going to Cameroon and borrowed from the same songbook as Watford.

Eguavoen now has some problems on his hands. He now faces a striker crisis with the absence of three of the strikers he relied on to deliver the goods in Cameroon. Victor Osimhen, Odion Ighalo and Paul Onuachu have all been declared unavailable. Eguavoen will now depend on Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Sadiq Umar to deliver for Nigeria.

Arabic television news channel Al Arabiya relayed quotes by Al-Marzouki. He insisted that the club was sticking to the rules set by FIFA that states the invitation in writing must reach the club, player and local federation 15 days before the start of the tournament.

He finished by saying there were no negotiations between Al-Shabab and the Nigeria Football Federation and that it was final.

Odion Ighalo will remain with his club as the Super Eagles continue their AFCON charge in Cameroon

This article was most recently revised and updated 6 months ago

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