x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Pompey want tournament scrapped

As security is stepped up at the African Cup of Nations, some anxious English Premier League clubs are calling for the immediate return of their players.

As security is stepped up at the African Cup of Nations, some anxious English Premier League clubs are calling for the immediate return of their players. Portsmouth have their veteran striker, Kanu, with Nigeria, striker Aruna Dindane with the Ivory Coast while Algeria have Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda in their ranks for the tournament. Peter Storrie, the club's chief executive, said: "I am very concerned about this whole situation. The safety of all the players must be paramount and that's why I believe they should all come home as soon as possible.

"We have four out there and, although they are not with the Togo team, you naturally worry about their well-being in the light of such an awful attack. It's common sense to scrap the tournament and bring them home." Chelsea, the leaders, are understandably concerned about the situation following the gun attack on the Togo team. Three of their players, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Michael Essien, are in Cabinda for the fixtures involving the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The Angolan enclave is where the Togo team came under fire and rebels are still active despite the end of the civil war in the country. But a Chelsea spokesman said that, as yet, there were no plans to call back the trio. "We're in contact with our players and we're monitoring the situation," he said. The same applies to Manchester City, with their captain Kolo Toure also part of the Ivory Coast squad.

Chelsea also have midfielder John Obi Mikel with the Nigerian team in Benguela, but Ademola Olajire, spokesman for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), said armed forces would be used to help allay safety fears. "We have asked for additional security, including military escort for our team," he said. "We are aware that the shooting took place in Cabinda, well away from where our team are, but we would like to assure Nigerians that the NFF is doing everything to ensure that the players who represent us are safe."

Aston Villa, who will welcome back their Togo player, Moustapha Salifou after he was "shaken" but unhurt in the incident, will await guidance from the English Football Association. Fifa, the world governing body, also examine the risk element. But that is not enough to satisfy some. Phil Brown, the Hull manager, has already demanded the return of two players, the Gabon striker Daniel Cousin and Nigerian midfielder Seyi Olofinjana.

@Email:akhan@thenational.ae