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End of Era: Barcelona striker Aubameyang retires from international football with Gabon

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Barcelona striker and Gabon captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has announced his retirement from international football after 13 years of active service to the national team.

Aubameyang departs as his country’s all-time leading goalscorer with 30 goals with just weeks before Gabon are due to kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

The former Arsenal striker played 72 times for his nation and was the team captain for several years but following an early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations in January in Cameroon, Aubameyang hinted he would now focus on his club career.

While announcing his international retirement in an open letter to Gabon football fans on Wednesday, the 32-year-old Aubameyang said:

“After 13 years of pride in representing my country, I announce that I am ending my international career.

 

“I would like to thank the Gabonese people and all those who have supported me in the good like the bad times.

“I will keep a lot of good memories like the day I made my debut at Romnisports, or the day I came back from Nigeria with the African Ballon d’Or.

“Sharing it with all the people was an unforgettable moment. I thank our President, his Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba who has always supported the Panthers and has always worked for football to evolve in our country.

“I would also like to thank all my coaches, staff and the players that I have come across during this career.

“Finally, I thank my father who gave me the desire to do like him, hoping to have made him proud by wearing our colours.”

However, Aubameyang’s international retirement has polarised many in the central African country as some people think the timing is not auspicious as the Panthers begin their next Afcon qualifiers in a few week’s time.

Losing the national team captain so close to the qualifiers is also seen by many as a let down as many of the young players in the team look up to him for leadership and inspiration.

Aubameyang was at the heart of the Gabon team when it reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 African Cup of Nations to equal their best performance in international competitions.

His last tournament with Gabon in the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon was a disappointment when he contracted Covid at the start of the competition and had to withdraw from the tournament without playing a game after being diagnosed with heart lesions.

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Three foreign-born players switch allegiance to Ghana: Can the trio help the Black Stars go far in Qatar?

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Three foreign-born footballers, Tariq Lamptey of Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu as well as Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish La Liga, have all switched allegiance to Ghana and are eligible to play for the Black Stars in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Europe-based trio are now eligible to represent the four-time African champions at senior level after initially shunning earlier invitations to play for the country, while holding out for invitations to the national teams of their birth countries.

While Lamptey and Salisu had hoped for call ups into the English national team setup, Williams had looked forward to moving from the Spanish Under 21 to the senior national team but with their chances being limited by the day, they have all decided to return to the country of their parents.

The switch of allegiance by the trio was confirmed by the President of the Ghana Football Association, Kurt Edwin Simeon-Okraku, via a post on Twitter on Tuesday night.

“Tariq Lamptey, Inaki Williams, Mohammed Salisu, Stephan Ambrosius, Patrick Pfeffer and Ransford Yeboah [are] available for national selection,” Simeon-Okraku wrote on the micro-blogging platform.

28-year-old Williams had represented Spain at U21 level before playing for their senior national team in a 3-1 friendly defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, but since then, has not had a look in from the Spanish team selectors.

Salisu was born in Kumasi but left for Europe, first to Spain where he played for Real Valladolid before switching to Premier League side Southampton.

He had previously rejected invitations to star for the Black Stars while hoping to get a call up by either Spain or England while Lamptey who was born in Hillingdon to Ghanaian parents has played for England at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels but his chances with the Three Lions has been blocked by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James.

Though the development is a big boost for the Black Stars ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the big question on the lips of soccer fans in the West African country is what the trio will bring to the Black Stars when the best footballing nations gather in Qatar for the World Cup in November.

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CAF postpones 2023 Afcon to January 2024 due to weather concerns

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF), has postponed the 34th edition of the African Nations Cup (AFCON), which was scheduled to hold between June to July of 2023 in Ivory Coast, to January and February, 2024.

The reason for the postponement, according to CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, is due to concerns over weather conditions in the West African country which experiences heavy rainfall during the period.

While addressing the CAF Executive Committee meeting in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday, Motsepe said the decision was also to align the continent with the European football calendars.

Motsepe also said the decision was further motivated by weather concerns following a report by the Ivorian Meteorological Agency which predicted heavy rainfall in many parts of the country designated for the tournament.

The agency, in a report presented to CAF, had noted that Ivory Coast which has a tropical climate, has the peak of its rain season between June and July and most parts of the country is always at the height of the rainy season.

This is the second time the AFCON will be rescheduled at the beginning of the year since it was moved from January/February to June/July by former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.

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