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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 7, 2008

Everton lose battle to retain midfielder Pienaar

Everton have this afternoon lost their battle to be allowed to play Steven Pienaar in tomorrow's Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Chelsea.

Earlier today Toffees boss David Moyes had invoked the 14 day rule and insisted the South African international would not have to travel to join up with his country's African Cup of Nations squad until Wednesday.

Moyes' view was that FIFA regulations did not make it clear whether players should be released 14 days ahead of the start of the competition, or 14 days ahead of a specific country's first match.

The tournament starts in Ghana on January 20, but South Africa's first match is not until January 23 against Angola.

Pienaar was expected to fly to Pretoria on Sunday, but trained with Everton at their Finch Farm complex today.

But by mid-afternoon, South Africa had formally asked FIFA to intervene, and Everton were contacted by the world's governing body and told their interpretation of the rule was wrong and that Pienaar should be released immediately.

An Everton spokesman said: 'Steven will be going to London today, but not to Stamford Bridge. He will be flying out from Heathrow.

'We have been contacted by FIFA and told he has to be released by us ahead of the Chelsea match.'

Earlier in the day, Everton chief executive Keith Wyness released a statement which read: 'The basis of club and country co-operation is crucial for all parties and that does involve give and take.

'Everyone here at Everton is looking forward to a proactive relationship with the South African FA grounded on a mutual respect for each other's aims and objectives.

'One of those aims for Everton is fielding the strongest possible team in a domestic cup semi-final and that includes having Steven available for selection under what we feel are the rules, as stipulated by FIFA.

'I would like to take this opportunity to wish Steven and the rest of the South African team all the very best for the tournament.'

Moyes' stance was almost certainly prompted by an annoyance with South African intransigence on the subject, particularly as Nigeria have given Everton permission to use Ayegbeni Yakubu and Joseph Yobo at Stamford Bridge before releasing them the following day to join their country's training camp in Malaga.

Privately, Everton feel South African could easily have followed suit, which prompted a phone conversation between Moyes and South Africa manager Carlos Alberto Parreira.

The decision to stop Pienaar flying to South Africa seemed little more than an open show of defiance by Everton, and Moyes.

But once FIFA became involved it was clear they considered the midfielder had to be released 14 days before the opening day of the tournament - as per their rules.

Pienaar trained today, with Everton leaving for their London hotel in late afternoon.

But by then Moyes knew that the on-loan Borussia Dortmund player would not be available at Stamford Bridge.

Moyes said: 'The rules, in my view, do not stipulate exactly whether it is 14 days before the tournament or 14 days before South Africa's first game. We have taken the latter view.

'We pay his wages, we pay him well and he is an employee of Everton and 14 days is more than enough time to prepare for the African Cup of Nations - which comes in the middle of our season.

'From my point of view as Everton manager, I fought tooth and nail for him. I was not going to let it go without a fight.'

Everton must now go into the first leg without Pienaar, who has made a huge impression since arriving at Goodison Park last summer.

Moyes will have Yobo back from a foot injury, while Tim Howard, Tim Cahill, Phil Neville and Nuno Valente will all be in the squad having missed Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup defeat by Oldham with minor injuries.