Super Eagles coach for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon Austin Eguavoen has expressed hope that Al Shabab striker Odion Jude Ighalo will join the rest of the squad in Cameroon.
The former Sunshine Stars coach told NFF TV while clearing the air about the absence of the former Man United and Watford striker from Eagles contingent amid reports that Qatar side Al Shabab have denied Ighalo a permission to leave for the tournament.
Al Shabab had established that they got the request for the player’s exit to participate in the continental showpiece late and that they have disallowed the striker from traveling to Cameroon for the competition.
Eguavoen said that the player is “doing everything possible to join the team in Cameroon.
“We exchanged text messages and from his response he’s doing everything possible to come by,” Eguavoen told NFF TV in Garoua.
News have been making rounds that a replacement has been touted and will soon be taking Ighalo’s place but coach Eguavoen has brought clarity into the situation admitting he had the intentions of replacing Ighalo but he won’t be able to do so because of CAF’s rule.
“I thought of replacing him, I have a deadline and tried to replace Ighalo but what CAF is saying is that it’s only based on injuries or health reasons, that’s the only way you can replace players. So that’s the only reason holding us back.”
CAF stipulates that “A player on the final list cannot be replaced unless seriously injured at the latest 24 hours at least before the beginning of the first match of his team.”
Eguavoen, however, stated that the federation is “putting in all efforts”, with the player also “doing his best from there.”
“But the federation is putting in all effort way out from here, the young man Odion is also doing his best from there hopefully we will get a positive answer. If it wasn’t for the rules that says it has to be on medical ground maybe we would have just told Odion not to go through that because psychologically we know he is with us but there is nothing we can do but to replace him. But on medical ground he is healthy and we don’t pray bad for anybody.”
“Hopefully we will get a positive answer,” he added.
Ighalo was the topscorer of the last edition of the tournament in 2019 scoring five goals and is the leading scorer of Qatar’s elite football division having scored 11 goals this season.
Austin Eguavoen is a former Afcon winner having won the 1994 edition and won bronze in 2006 as a coach.