ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Guinea midfielder Naby Keita is set to play for the first time since the start of May when they take on Madagascar in their first match at the African Cup of Nations in Alexandria on Saturday.
Keita played a full part in training on Friday, showing no ill effects of the adductor injury he suffered in the early stages of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final, first leg at Barcelona on May 1.
The injury ruled him out of the last month of Liverpool’s season, including the Champions League final, but Guinea took a gamble on his fitness and included him in their 23-man squad for the tournament.
Guinea, however, must do without winger Jose Kante, who picked up a knee injury in their last warm-up international against Egypt, and will likely miss their opening two Group B matches, a spokesman said on Friday.
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s soccer team have refused to leave their hotel to board a flight to the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt because of a players’ pay dispute, a team spokeswoman said on Friday.
The reigning champions are set to start the tournament on Tuesday in a match against Guinea-Bissau, but the players did not appear for their flight on Thursday evening amid a spat over bonus payments.
“The Lions are still in Yaounde. They did not agree with their managers on the amount of their premiums,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.
Pay disputes before major competitions are not unusual for African soccer federations who often do not have sufficient resources to pay their players high sums.
Nigeria and Ghana have experienced similar problems in recent World Cups.
Ministry of sports spokesman Gabriel Nloga said the players had each been paid a bonus of 20 million CFA francs ($34 635). A source at Cameroon’s soccer federation said the players had asked for twice that.
Two sources close to the negotiations said they expected the team to leave Cameroon later on Friday after the ministry of sport agreed to pay each player a 5 million CFA franc bonus after their first tournament victory.
Cameroon has a rich soccer history, with both male and female teams taking part in a number of past World Cups.
The women’s team was one of three African teams to qualify for the World Cup taking place in France. They reached the last 16 on Thursday after a 2-1 win over New Zealand.
But the Central African country was last year stripped of its right to host the 2019 Nations Cup due to delays in preparations for the tournament and security concerns.
The Cup kicks off later on Friday with an opening match between Egypt and Zimbabwe in Cairo.Reuters