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The Toe Poke
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By ESPN Staff

Ben Arfa turns down Tunisian World Cup invitation

TUNIS, May 13 (Reuters) - French-born teenager Hatem Ben Arfa has turned down an invitation from Tunisia for possible inclusion in their World Cup squad, the Tunisian Football Federation said on Friday.

The 19-year-old from French champions Olympique Lyon was among 19 players called up for Tunisia's World Cup training this week.

He told officials he wished to continue playing for France's Under-21s although he did not rule out playing for the country of his parents' birth in the future.

'He said he did not feel he was ready for international level (soccer) and wanted to continue playing for France. He did not feel that the 2006 World Cup was his time,' Tunisian football federation president Hammouda Ben Ammar said.

'But Ben Arfa, after a conversation with his (club) coach Gerard Houllier, has left the door open for Tunisia in the coming years because the rules allow him to make a choice before the age of 21.

'He said the call-up from Tunisia had given him enormous pleasure but that it was too premature for him,' the federation statement added.

Ben Arfa was a member of France's under-17 team which won the European championship two years ago.

Tunisia name their squad for the World Cup, which starts on June 9, on Monday.