January 16 – When is retirement not retirement? FIFA have been asked by Liverpool to make a ruling over the eligibility of Cameroon defender Joel Matip after the club was forced to leave him out in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Matip ostensibly retired from international football in September 2015 but Cameroon national team coach Hugo Broos tried to call him up for the ongoing African Nations Cup.
Although Matip has stuck to his guns, Broos appears to be struggling to accept the decision and Liverpool say they have been unable to gain clarity from FIFA about whether he is available or not.
“Our understanding is Joel is retired from international football and we, the club, did everything we had to do to make this clear but until now we could not get the response we need to be 100% sure that he can play,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool are already without Senegal forward Sadio Mane because of African Nations duty and are adamant Matip should be free to play but in the absence of such a guarantee they are reluctant to take the risk.
“It’s pretty difficult and pretty frustrating, to be honest,” said Klopp. “ He’s been in training for five days and would have been in the squad, 100%, maybe on the pitch, so I don’t think it’s fair. But we could not take the risk.”
Liverpool drew against Manchester United on Sunday with Man Utd scoring a late second half goal to level what was a crucial league match. Matip could arguably have been in Liverpool’s defence and influencing the match – and potentially league – outcome.
A Liverpool club statement said that Cameroon “have failed to confirm” that Matip can play club football during the period of the Africa Cup of Nations. “Liverpool have subsequently repeatedly sought, as a matter of urgency, clarity from FIFA in this regard. This includes assurances the player was called up for the tournament in accordance with the world governing body’s regulations.”
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