Samuel Eto'o: Cameroon ready to play hard ball
[GALLO/GETTY]
Cameroon's Football Federation has called on Spanish club Barcelona to immediately release striker Samuel Eto'o so he can join the national squad for the African Nations Cup, which kicks off in Ghana on January 20.

Federation spokesman Abdouraman denied statements which had appeared in the media by Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard that a deal had been reached with the club to release Eto'o on January 12.

"We were surprised by Rijkaard's declaration because we've not reached such an agreement with Barca," he said.

"This is unacceptable. We want Eto'o released immediately so that he joins the rest of the squad."

National coach Otto Pfister needed Eto'o in training to be able to make a final squad selection by the January 10 deadline, Abdouraman said.

Eto'o was the only member of the 28-man shortlist not to have confirmed his attendance at a training camp in Burkina Faso and Abdouraman called on Barcelona to release the player by Tuesday.

"We hope they do not put us in a situation of considering some action against them," he said.

Abdouraman said Barcelona contacted them last month to request Eto'o remained with the Spanish club till January 16, but Pfister replied that this was impossible because of the essential role the striker plays in the squad.

Barcelona were also reminded of the Fifa rules for continental championships stating clubs must release players two weeks before the start of the tournament, Abdouraman said.

"But, surprisingly, last Saturday night we received a message instead from Barca's medical doctor, not the club management as expected, stating that releasing Eto'o would jeopardise his re-education after a prolonged period of absence from the pitch due to a knee injury," said Abdouraman.

Eto'o returned to action for Barcelona last month after a long-term injury that required surgery.

Four-times Nations Cup winners Cameroon are drawn in group C alongside Egypt, Sudan and Zambia.

The Indomitable Lions play their first game against Egypt on January 22.

South Africa win Pienaar tug-of-war

Steven Pienaar: Ghana bound, but without
Everton's blessing [GALLO/GETTY]
Meanwhile, English side Everton have criticised the South African Football Association (SAFA) and Fifa after being told midfielder Steven Pienaar must report for international duty immediately.

The Premier League club had hoped that Pienaar would be allowed to play in their League Cup semi-final first leg against Chelsea on Tuesday before joining up with South Africa for the African Nations Cup.

Everton had argued that they did not need to release the player until after Tuesday's match as his country's first game in the tournament against Angola was not until January 23.

However, Fifa confirmed on Monday that the SAFA were within their rights to demand Pienaar's release as the 14-day rule for international players related to the tournament's opening game on January 20 between hosts Ghana and Guinea.

"We are extremely disappointed that a common-sense attitude has not been shown, as has been the case with a number of other federations," Everton secretary David Harrison said.

"Despite FIFA's attempts to clarify the regulation, we do feel, as do a number of other European clubs, that there is a distinct grey area on this ruling and we are extremely disappointed that this has only been made clear at this late stage."

Everton have already been given permission by Nigeria to keep Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Joseph Yobo for the Stamford Bridge match while Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel should also play for Chelsea.

"In cases of disputes, the regulation states that associations can request players 14 days before the start of the tournament," a Fifa spokesman said earlier.

"The regulations are known by clubs. Usually the clubs and associations find a fruitful solution to any issue."

Almost every club in the Premier League will be hit by the African exodus with around 40 England-based players taking part in the tournament.

Source: Agencies