Afobe chooses club over coun­try

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

KINSHASA: Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe has pulled out of the Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) fi­nals to stay with his Pre­mier League team de­spite re­cently switch­ing his al­le­giance from Eng­land to the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC).

The Con­golese foot­ball fed­er­a­tion (Fe­cofa) yes­ter­day con­firmed Afobe’s with­drawal from a 31-man pre­lim­i­nary squad that has gath­ered in Yaounde, Cameroon for pre­tour­na­ment prepa­ra­tions.

“Afobe has for­feited from the tour­na­ment,” said me­dia of­fi­cer Ger­ard-De­sire An­gengwa with­out of­fer­ing any rea­son.

Bri­tish me­dia re­ported that Afobe had told the Con­golese coach Florent Ibenge he wished to con­sol­i­date his place in the Bournemouth start­ing line-up af­ter scor­ing against Swansea City in a 3-0 away win on Satur­day.

“The man­ager showed faith in me by start­ing me and I wanted to re­pay him with a goal, so I’m happy,” the 23-year-old told his club’s web­site af­ter the vic­tory on New Year’s eve. “The goal was a great re­lief and a goal at a cru­cial time. The lads have been help­ing me a lot and I want to im­prove per­son­ally.”

Afobe now has two goals in his last three starts for the Cher­ries but could be banned from play­ing for his club for the du­ra­tion of the three­week tour­na­ment, which starts on Jan­uary 14, if the Con­golese fed­er­a­tion take up the is­sue with Fifa.

Afobe’s de­ci­sion comes less than two months af­ter he re­ceived Fifa’s per­mis­sion be­lat­edly to switch his in­ter­na­tional al­le­giance af­ter pre­vi­ously play­ing for Eng­land at the Un­der-21 level.

He was sup­posed to de­but for the Con­golese in Novem­ber’s World Cup qual­i­fier at Guinea but was stymied when the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion sent his pa­per­work for the switch of na­tion­al­ity to the wrong fed­er­a­tion, em­bar­rass­ingly mix­ing up DR Congo with neigh­bour­ing Con­goBraz­zav­ille.

Afobe had been left frus­trated af­ter fly­ing all the way to Africa to find he was not el­i­gi­ble to play.

DR Congo have a tough group at the tour­na­ment in Gabon, com­pet­ing with hold­ers Ivory Coast, Morocco and Togo in Group C.

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