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Senegal accuse Watford of blocking Sarr from AFCON duty

By Daniel Lewis

London, January 3: Senegal have accused Watford of blocking Ismaila Sarr from linking up with the national team ahead of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.

Sarr has not played for Watford since November 20 due to a knee ligament injury and is not expected to return to fitness until the end of this month at the earliest.

Despite still being out injured, Senegal named the 23-year-old in their squad for the tournament, which runs from January 9 until February 6.

However, Watford informed Senegal earlier this week that Sarr will not be allowed to travel.

It is the second Africa Cup of Nations row Watford have been embroiled in after Nigeria accused the Premier League side of "baring fangs" after objecting to Emmanuel Dennis being named in the squad.

The Senegalese Football Federation's general secretary Victor Seh Cisse believes the reasons given by Watford for objecting to Sarr's call-up are not justified.

"By mail on Friday, December 31, 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," a statement read.

"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."

Clubs have until Monday to release players called up by their national teams for the delayed competition, which has been pushed back by a year due to coronavirus.

Senegal, who finished runners-up to Algeria in 2019, added they will take the matter up with FIFA should it not be resolved.

Responding to the allegations, Watford released a statement on their official website on Sunday that 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 Ismaila'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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Story first published: Monday, January 3, 2022, 0:20 [IST]
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