NFF keeping hope alive for Ighalo’s release

Guinea's defender Issiaga Sylla (L) vies for the ball with Nigeria's forward Odion Ighalo (R) during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium on June 26, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Nigeria Football Federation has said it is very much still hopeful on the availability of Odion Ighalo for the Africa Cup of Nations starting this weekend in Cameroon.

Reports indicate that Ighalo’s Saudi club Al-Shabab are not favourably disposed to releasing the 32-year old for Africa’s flagship tournament.

However, a top official of the NFF, Ademola Olajire, told PREMIUM TIMES in Lagos on Wednesday that negotiations are still going on with Ighalo’s Saudi club and a concession may be secured sooner or later.

“The NFF has been talking with Al Shabab. We are both hoping for an amicable solution,” the Federation spokesperson stated.

Asked if the NFF is considering dragging Al Shabab to FIFA for standing in the way of the Nigerian striker, Mr Olajire suggested it is not a route the Federation is keen on taking.

“Anytime you go that route, you are not helping the player. What we always consider is that there is always a next time… if there is an issue now, we look to resolve it before we take the next step, it is better we exhaust every other option available,” Mr Olajire said.
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The NFF spokesperson reckoned that Al Shabab had always been cooperative with Nigeria as they graciously released Ighalo for the last set of World Cup qualifying games against Liberia and Cape Verde.

Ighalo only recently returned to national team duties after announcing his retirement following Nigeria’s third-place finish at the 2019 AFCON where he finished as the top scorer.
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It is, however, still not certain if the ex-Manchester United striker will get to play in a second consecutive AFCON as his club Al-Shabab are flexing powers on his release.

With the Super Eagles billed to jet out Wednesday night to Garoua, Ighalo will have to fly straight to Cameroon if he finally gets the green light from his team.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are in Group D alongside Egypt, Sudan and Guinea Bissau. The group games will be played in Garoua and the Super Eagles will play their first game against Egypt on Tuesday, the 11th of January, 2022

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