MALABO, Equatorial Guinea – Striker Nando Rafael has been cleared to play for Angola by FIFA a day after its opening match at the African Cup of Nations.
Angola said on Wednesday it was informed by FIFA in a letter that the former Germany Under-21 forward was eligible again for his country of birth from Monday — the day after Angola beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in Group B and two days after the tournament kicked off.
Rafael, 28, had taken up German citizenship after playing club football there.
Angola coach Lito Vidigal said Rafael would be considered for selection for Thursday’s game against Sudan at Estadio de Malabo. Angola is joint top of Group B alongside tournament favourite Ivory Coast, which beat the Sudanese 1-0.
“Anybody has the possibility of playing,” Vidigal said. “If Nando, or anyone else, is fit then depending on the conditions of the game then they might play.”
The issue of player eligibility is developing into a controversial subject at this year’s African showpiece after co-host Equatorial Guinea fielded a string of foreign-born players in its opening-day victory over Libya in Bata. Most of the co-host’s squad was born outside the country.
The Confederation of African Football said all players at the African Cup had had their eligibility checked with FIFA by the competition organizers, although the world body said that “as a general rule” it was the responsibility of the national associations to ensure players on their teams met the criteria.
Angola’s Group B opponent Burkina Faso was only recently cleared to play in the event after a decision by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed its Cameroon-born defender Herve Zengue was a naturalized Bukinabe following eligibility doubts over him. Zengue eventually missed out on Burkina Faso’s final squad.
Burkina Faso also has a number of Ivory Coast-born players at the tournament and left defender Stephane Agbre off its final squad after conceding there was a problem with his eligibility.
It is not the only team at the tournament with foreign-born players.