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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 9, 2008

Date set for Bangura work permit hearing

Watford midfielder Al Bangura's fight to stay in the United Kingdom will be resolved early next week after a work permit hearing was scheduled.

Bangura will travel with club officials to a hearing where six experts will decide whether the 19-year-old should be given a permit to work in this country in exceptional circumstances.

The panel will be made up of three Home Office officials and three football experts who will judge the merit of his case as a footballer who can add to the status of the professional game in this country.

A club statement read: 'Following the concession from the Government, Watford Football Club have been working hard to obtain and collate the documentary evidence needed to display to the panel that Bangura's talent as a professional is undeniable and that a return to Africa would all but end his career as a top-class footballer.

'We hope to be able to bring news of the result of the panel's findings early next week.'

Bangura was refused leave to stay in the UK last month and was set to be deported to his native Sierra Leone.

But after a meeting with Home Office minister Liam Byrne the club were handed the unusual option of applying for a work permit.

Bangura's chances of obtaining a work permit would normally be slim as he is uncapped and Sierra Leone are outside the top 70 nations in FIFA's rankings.

Labour MP Claire Ward was instrumental in persuading Byrne to schedule the meeting and said last month: 'Because Al wouldn't qualify automatically for a work permit his case will be considered by an independent panel which will include members of the Home Office and members of the football world.

'They will consider his track record and what he brings to the game and then recommend to the Home Office whether he should be allowed to stay.

'It's a matter now for the panel to judge the sort of things that Watford fans have been seeing over the last few seasons which is just how good Al is.'

Bangura has yet to feature in the league this season after a succession of injuries but made 16 appearances in the Premier League last season as the Hornets were relegated.