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Africa Cup of Nations: Watford refusing to release Ismaila Sarr, say Senegal

Senegal, the 2019 African Cup of Nations runners-up, say they will take the matter up with FIFA if required; AFCON starts on January 9, with Sky Sports showing every game; Watford have reiterated that Sarr is not currently fit to play and is still recovering from a knee injury

Ismaila Sarr
Image: Ismaila Sarr is currently sidelined with a knee injury sustained in the 4-1 win against Manchester United on November 20

Senegal have accused Watford of refusing to release Ismaila Sarr for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Forward Sarr, 23, was named in the Senegal squad last month despite currently being sidelined with a knee injury sustained in November.

The 24-team competition being held in Cameroon begins on January 9 and will feature a host of leading Premier League and European players.

"By mail on Friday, December 31, the English club Watford notified on the basis of arguments equally specious as fallacious its decision to block the player Ismaila Sarr, who has expressed his desire to join the Senegalese selection for the next Cup of Nations in Cameroon," said a Senegal Football Federation (FSF) statement.

The FSF added it responded immediately to confirm the player's call-up and the club's obligation to release the player by no later than January 3.

Ismaila Sarr was injured against Manchester United, having earlier scored his fifth goal of the season
Image: The Watford forward has been unavailable for the club's last six Premier League games

Senegal, the 2019 runners-up, say they will take the matter up with FIFA if required.

"The Senegal Football Federation wishes to express with this communication its deep condemnation of the disrespectful, pernicious and discriminatory behaviour of Watford's hierarchy who look by all means to prevent a player from playing with his national team," the statement concluded.

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In response, Watford said that Sarr is currently not fit to play and that the Hornets have been in direct contact with the Senegalese FA regarding his condition and timeframe for recovery.

A club statement read: "Ismaila Sarr suffered a knee ligament injury on November 20 in the match against Manchester United and has not been fit to play for Watford FC since that date.

"In early December, the Club wrote to the Senegal Football Federation outlining the clinical diagnosis of Ismaïla's injury and immediately followed that up by supplying the MRI scans detailing the extent of the injury. After further consultation with medical experts, we informed the Federation of Ismaila's rehabilitation process and likely timeframe of recovery.

"Within the past 10 days, the Club has reiterated to the Senegal Football Federation the player's current medical status and recovery schedule.

"The Hornets have also invited the Senegal Football Federation to instruct their own independent surgeon to confirm the diagnosis and rehabilitation period."

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Speaking on Friday, Claudio Ranieri insisted Watford did not disrespect the Africa Cup of Nations after it was confirmed that Emmanuel Dennis will not be part of Nigeria's squad.

Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis, who has scored eight Premier League goals since his summer arrival, will not join up with Nigeria after the club said the Nigeria Football Federation did not request him for the tournament in time.

Head coach Claudio Ranieri insisted Watford had not disrespected the Africa Cup of Nations after Nigeria accused them of "baring fangs".

Watford sit 17th in the Premier League club, two points outside the relegation places, after a spottage-time winner by Tottenham on Saturday consigned them to a sixth successive loss.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham's win against Watford in the Premier League.

AFCON coverage is 'disrespectful', says Wright

Former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright says media coverage of Europe-based players travelling to the Africa Cup of Nations is "disrespectful" and "tinged with racism".

The 24-team competition begins on January 9 and will feature a host of leading Premier League players, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.

AFCON: Which players could miss PL and Scottish games?
AFCON: Which players could miss PL and Scottish games?

Sixteen Premier League clubs and Rangers are set to be impacted by the Africa Cup of Nations in January and February, with 40 players potentially called up.

Wright said coverage of the tournament and the issue of player release during the European season is in marked contrast to how Euro 2020 was treated.

"Is there ever a tournament more disrespected than the Africa Cup of Nations?" Wright said in a video posted on Instagram.

"There is no greater honour than representing your country. The coverage is completely tinged with racism.

"We played our Euros across 10 countries in the middle of a pandemic and there's no issue at all. But Cameroon, a single country hosting a tournament, is a problem."

Wright added that he objected to players being asked whether or not they intend to play for their countries.

"You are getting players getting asked if they will be honouring the call-ups to their national teams. Imagine if that was an English player representing the Three Lions. Can you imagine the furore?"

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