By Amaechi Agbo
As the race to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations AFCON holding in Cameroon next year climaxes this month, Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr should not sleep with his two eyes closed.
This is because there are indications that some of the key players he hopes to use and prosecute the two remaining matches against Benin Republic and Lesotho on 27th and 30th of this month, in that order, may not be part of the team.
This is no thanks to the rampaging novel Covid-19 pandemic coupled with new FIFA Rules that empowers clubs not to release players for international assignments.
With the forgoing, there is concern that, for instance, the quartets of Super Eagles players in Premier League, England – Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheancho from Leicester City; Alex Iwobi of Everton and Semi Ajayi of West Brom may not be part of the qualifiers.
This is because most Premier League clubs are kicking against their players flying out for international duty next week
World football governing body FIFA last month ruled that in the context of the challenges that remain in place for both international and domestic football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had provided additional flexibility regarding the release of players for national team duty till April, 2021
FIFA in the amended rules notes that the rules relating to release of players to association teams apply as normal except where there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five (5) days upon arrival in the location of the club which has an obligation to release the player to an association team or the location where a representative team match is scheduled to take place or there is a travel restriction to or from either location and a specific exemption from the relevant authorities relating to the above decisions has not been granted to players of a representative team.
With Gernot Rohr inviting 24 Europe based players with exemption of Enyimba of Aba goalkeeper, John Noble for the qualifiers, there are concerns that in an event where clubs refuse to release their players based on Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the consequences would be enormous.
Should his star player restricted by the clubs to honour the two matches, does Gernot Rohr has plan B on how to remedy the situation?
With only two players from the domestic league being called – John Noble, goalkeeper, Enyimba as well as Abia Warriors player, Adekunle Adeleke on standby, who would bail the cat?