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FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes there is nothing to stop Tottenham Hotspur’s Frederic Kanoute from representing Mali once the player receives clearance from football’s governing body.

“His case should be crystal clear: there would be nothing to stop him playing for Mali, once the players’ status committee has confirmed his eligibility, if that is what he wants to do,” Blatter wrote in Wednesday’s Financial Times newspaper.

FIFA’s status committee is meeting later today to discuss the cases of Kanoute, Lamine Sakho of Leeds United and Mohamed Sissoko of Valencia. All three represented France as Under-21s but under new rules agreed at FIFA’s congress in Doha in October and which came into force on January 1, they have applied to FIFA for a change of nationality as they have dual citizenship.

However it is Kanoute’s case which has attracted most attention. His club, Tottenham have dropped into the relegation zone and are desperate to retain the striker’s services

But Blatter said: “It is perfectly irrelevant, given new FIFA rules on the matter which came into effect this month, that Kanoute has in the past played in another country’s colours. The point is he did not play for the A team.”

“Club managers and coaches would be well advised not only to observe international rules, but to stop trying to obstruct players’ legitimate rights.

“FIFA will always defend those rights, even when adopting such a stance makes us unpopular.”

“Given the expanding role of African – and increasingly also Asian – players in English football, it is high time managers and coaches, shareholders and owners understood that the premier league is only one string in their players’ bows.”

“The opportunity to represent their country in a major tournament outweighs all honours a club league can offer. This is something that the ominous G-14, the grouping of the richest European clubs, should bear in mind.”

“It cannot be acceptable to recruit such stars and then demand that they show disrespect to their countries if a tournament or international fixture clashes with Premiership matches – particularly if they are part of the international co-ordinated calendar.”

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