Spurs blow as Kanoute is cleared to join Mali

TOTTENHAM’S attempts to block leading scoring Frederic Kanoute playing for Mali in the African Nations Cup later this month have been dashed by FIFA.

Spurs believed the fact that Kanoute had played for France Under-21s in the European Championships made him ineligible, but football’s world governing body has given him the green light to appear for Mali.

FIFA also gave the go-ahead for Leeds’ Lamine Sakho, who also appeared for France at youth level, to play for Senegal.

FIFA said in a statement: "A number of players and associations have already submitted requests to FIFA ahead of the African Nations Cup. Consequently, FIFA yesterday approved requests to change associations submitted by Frederic Oumar Kanoute (Mali), Mohamed Lamine Sissoko (Mali) and Lamine Sakho (Senegal), who all represented France at youth level on one or more occasion."

Spurs could lose him for three Premiership games and both the fourth and fifth rounds of the FA Cup if they progress. The club claim when they signed Kanoute from West Ham in the summer they believe he was a French national.

Club secretary John Alexander said earlier this week: "When we signed Fredi back in the summer the FIFA ruling was that if any player played for a country in an A international - by which we mean World Cup Finals or qualifiers, European Championship finals or qualifiers or any other confederation’s equivalent of the European Championship - then he can only play for that country.

"Fredi had played for France in European Championship games at under-21 level and therefore in FIFA’s eyes at the point of signing for Tottenham, he was a French player and could only ever be a French player.

"At its congress held in Doha on 19 October, FIFA decided to change the statute relating to a player’s eligibility to play for a national association, the new rule became effective on 1 January, 2004."

Celtic have been boosted by the news that winger Momo Sylla will not be accepting the invitation to represent Guinea, unlike team-mate Bobo Balde.

Balde jets off after the Hearts game at Tynecastle in the middle of the month but Sylla, who said the decision was made for "football reasons", will not be with him.

Nigeria striker Julius Aghahowa, who scored against Scotland in a friendly at Pittodrie in 2002 failed to join up with the squad preparing in Portugal because he had been booked to fly in economy class.

Aghahowa, who plays for Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, said he usually flies in the more expensive business class, which the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) did not provide for the trip on Tuesday.

"I have not travelled with an economy ticket before, so why now?" Aghahowa said. "I told them (NFA) I will pay my way to Faro but they turned down my request."

NFA officials declined to comment yesterday.

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