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 By PA Sport

Benik Afobe pulls out of African Nations Cup to focus on Bournemouth

Benik Afobe is in his first full season at Bournemouth after leaving Arsenal.

Benik Afobe has rejected the chance to play at the African Nations Cup for DR Congo so he can fight for his long-term future at Bournemouth.

Former England under-21s forward Afobe switched allegiance to the central African country in March, but will now face a longer wait for his senior international debut.

However, his decision did not allow him to be included in the squad that faced Arsenal on Tuesday because he had not received international clearance from DR Congo.

"We haven't had the relevant clearance from DR Congo yet," Bournemouth coach Eddie Howe said. "They've accepted Benik's decision to stay here and play his club football for us but we are still waiting for the relevant clearance and until we get that he won't be available."

Afobe claimed his second goal of the season as Bournemouth eased past Swansea City 3-0 on New Year's Eve, and he can now face former club Arsenal at Dean Court on Tuesday.

"For the last couple of months I have been talking to my family and thinking about what is best for my development," Afobe told Bournemouth's official website. "I have a lot of respect for everyone at DR Congo: the staff there, the players and fans.

"It's a massive tournament for everyone, but thinking about my development and being at this stage in my career where I'm trying to establish myself in my first full Premier League season, I just want to keep improving.

"I have a great opportunity here now and I think by going away and missing six or seven weeks it could hamper my season personally and for the team."

Afobe joined Bournemouth in a then club-record £10 million deal in January 2016, hitting four goals in 15 Premier League appearances last term.

He was unable to make his DR Congo debut in November after the Football Association sent his registration to the wrong country, neighbouring Congo.

This time Afobe himself has opted for another false start on his DR Congo career, but insists that his international manager is comfortable with his decision.

"I spoke to the manager Florent Ibenge over the phone and that's something I wanted to do myself to show respect," Afobe added. "We spoke and he said that he understood.

"He said he was a player himself and that he understands the situation I am in, he hopes that I can keep improving and getting more minutes with Bournemouth.

"Everything's been left in a good way and I'll be watching every game the team play in the tournament and hoping they do as well as possible.

"As a forward you always want to be scoring goals. Goals are what strikers live for. The main things for me is that I keep improving, getting chances and working on my composure.

"I've still got a long way to go, I'm only 23, but I feel I'm going in the right direction and I want that to continue.

"It was a honour for me to be considered in the provisional squad and I look forward to representing DR Congo in the future."

DR Congo media officer Gerard-Desire Angengwa added: "Afobe has forfeited from the tournament."

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