FIFA president Sepp Blatter has hinted that his organisation may ease the restrictions covering the release of players for international tournaments.
The African Nations Cup tournament, scheduled to start in Tunisia on Saturday, has been dogged by complaints from French and English clubs angry at being forced to release players in the middle of their domestic seasons. The current guidelines allow for countries to withdraw players from club football two weeks before the tournament starts, but Blatter accepts that there is room for compromise.
“It is a question of how long before the start of the competition they should be released,” Blatter told reporters during an African Football Confederation (CAF) general assembly.
“According to our regulations, it should be two weeks and I think it’s a little bit long because with two weeks and then three weeks of competition, if you go through to the end, it’s five weeks.”
Certain players have ignnored the two-weak deadline altogether. Nigeria’s Jay Jay Okockha for instance, played for Bolton lat night before meeting up with his team-mates.
However, Blatter resisted calls to move the African Nations Cup to the European close season.
“Definitely, from a climactical point of view, there are only a few African countries where you can play in the summer,” he said.
Blatter said European clubs should show their respect for African football when it came to releasing players.
“The problem here is that the African Nations Cup is part of the international coordinated calendar and the European clubs knew they have to release the players,” he said.
“There must be some solidarity around the world. I think that releasing players for national team duties is (a sign of) respect towards a national association or a country.”
“We are a Fair-Play game. Our slogan is ‘we are the Fair-Play family’ so if there are problems, let’s face them, sit together and solve them. We shouldn’t speak about arrogance or indiscipline.”