François-Régis Mughe (photo), who was included in the roster of 27 players set to participate in the impending Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), scheduled to commence on January 13 in Côte d'Ivoire, has opted to decline his selection with Cameroon. His decision was first reported by the French publication L'Equipe. Mughe's decision is attributed to his aspiration for increased playing opportunities at the club level, a desire fueled by the absence of key players Iliman Ndiaye and Ismaïla Sarr (Senegal), and Amine Harit and Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco), who are set to compete in the AFCON. Consequently, he is reported to have rebuffed a call-up from Rigobert Song, the manager of the Indomitable Lions.
Despite extending his contract with Olympique de Marseille (OM) until 2028, Mughe's on-field appearances this season have been limited to seven matches, with only two starts and no goals. OM clarified to L'Equipe that the decision to abstain from the national team was solely the player's choice and asserted that no assurances of increased playing time were provided. The player is among the eight forwards chosen for the AFCON2023, having received his initial national team call-up for the match against Burundi (3-0) on September 12, the 6th and final day of the AFCON 2023 qualifiers. However, an injury sustained in training prevented him from making his debut with the national team.
FIFA rules stipulate that clubs must release players called up for national team duty, including for the AFCON. Appendix 1, Article 1 of the FIFA legal compendium states: "A club that has registered a player must make that player available to the association of the country for which the player is qualified, on the basis of his nationality, if he is called up by the association in question."
This means Mughe cannot unilaterally refuse the call-up without facing potential sanctions. Article 5 further clarifies: "A player called up for one of the representative teams of his association does not have the right, unless otherwise agreed with the said association, to play for the club with which he is registered for the time that his release lasts or should have lasted in accordance with the present appendix, plus a further five days."
Therefore, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) could theoretically request FIFA to suspend Mughe for the duration of the AFCON. However, Fecafoot has not previously pursued such action in similar cases. Notably, both Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joel Matip declined AFCON call-ups in 2017 without facing repercussions.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem