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  • Bamako, Mali, and London | 4 January 2004 . . . Club-vs.-country controversy, permutation 15,184. This time the dispute involves Tottenham Hotspur's Frédéric Kanouté, who wishes to play for his father's native Mali in the upcoming African Nations Cup (Jan. 24–Feb. 14). Oh shut up, PleatLatest developments include Spurs caretaker manager David Pleat further upsetting Mali officials with his bizarre comments, such as "Do you know the population of Mali? Neither do any of my players," and, "I don't even know where Mali is" (James Copnall and Amy Lawrence, "Club v Country Row Grows as Angry Africans Slam 'Contemptuous' Spurs," The Guardian). Pleat adds that, though he is cloudy concerning particulars on Mali, he is not sure Kanouté is up to the task of playing internationally: "I am not sure Freddie is that equipped to play in that intensity. He's a player who is very sensitive to his body parts: his ankles have to be right, his knees have to be right, that's the way he is." Bavieux Traoré of the Mali Football Federation, however, objects. "Mali is a country, Tottenham is a club. Why should we be subordinate to their wishes?" The Guardian's Richard Williams, for one, has chided both Pleat, who wants Kanouté to help Spurs in a potential relegation battle ("Pleat and Allardyce Fail to See the Bigger African Picture," 31 December 2003), and Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce. Jay-Jay Okocha has been the object of Allardyce's lobbying—bald-faced statements to tempt the Nigerian from international football, using the "lure" of a potential Carling Cup final: "He hasn't played at the Millennium Stadium and I think it would be wonderful for him to have it on his CV." Such disputes are not only occurring in the English Premier League; witness the problems between Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o and his club side, Real Mallorca. In other coverage, the Financial Times calls Kanouté the prodigal son for his previous flirtation with France (James Copnall, "Prodigal Son Returns to His Roots," 7 January 2004), and Sepp Blatter again blasts the G14 for trying to interfere with African players' international ambitions ("Country Always Outweighs Club," Financial Times, 7 January 2004). | back to top