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50-50 Challenge: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

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By ESPN Staff
Jan 8, 2008

Barca allowed by Cameroon to retain Eto'o

MADRID, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Barcelona have permission to retain Samuel Eto'o for two more games before the striker joins up with Cameroon for the African Nations Cup, the president of the Cameroon Football Federation (CFF) confirmed on Tuesday. 'There is no problem. The coach (Otto Pfister) has spoken with the player and accepts that he plays this weekend and then joins the squad, having played two more games with Barcelona,' Mohammed Iya told Spanish radio station RAC-1. Iya admitted Pfister had needed convincing but that the German coach had accepted it would help Eto'o improve his physical fitness after having missed most of the season so far with injury. Iya's comments supported Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard's assertions that the Primera Liga club had written permission to retain the player. 'The important thing for Samuel is to play and the federation and their coach have seen that that is best for them and for us,' Rijkaard told a news conference on Tuesday. Barcelona have included Eto'o in their squad to face Sevilla in the first leg of their King's Cup last-16 tie on Wednesday and expect to field him at home to Real Murcia in the league on Saturday before he hooks up with Cameroon. CFF spokesman Abdouraman had called on Monday for Eto'o's immediate release to join the Cameroon squad preparing for the tournament in Ghana which kicks off on Jan. 20. Abdouraman, who claimed there was no deal with Barcelona, said Pfister needed Eto'o in training to be able to make a final squad selection by the Jan. 10 deadline. Eto'o was the only member of a 28-man shortlist not to have confirmed his attendance at a training camp in Burkina Faso and Abdouraman called on Barcelona to release the player by Tuesday. Abdouraman said Barcelona contacted the CFF last month to request Eto'o remained with the Spanish club until Jan. 16, but Pfister replied that this was impossible because of the essential role the striker plays in the squad. Barcelona were also reminded of FIFA rules for continental championships stating clubs must release players two weeks before the start of the tournament, Abdouraman said. 'But, surprisingly, last Saturday night we received a message instead from Barca's medical doctor, not the club management as expected, stating that releasing Eto'o would jeopardise his re-education after a prolonged period of absence from the pitch due to a knee injury,' said Abdouraman. Eto'o returned to action for Barcelona last month after a long-term injury that required surgery. Four-times Nations Cup winners Cameroon are in Group C with Egypt, Sudan and Zambia. The Indomitable Lions play their first game against Egypt on Jan. 22.