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By ESPN Staff

Mali to block Kanoute from attending player awards

ACCRA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Mali will refuse to allow striker Frederic Kanoute to attend the African Footballer of the Year award function on Friday if they qualify for the African Nations Cup quarter-finals.

Mali need a point from their last Group B match against Ivory Coast in Accra on Tuesday to reach the last eight.

Coach Jean Francois Jodar said on Monday he would not let Kanoute go to the event, which is being held in Lome, Togo, 48 hours before the quarter-finals begin on Sunday.

Kanoute is one of three candidates shortlisted for the award, along with Ghana's Michael Essien and Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba, who won it last year.

'It is crazy to organise a function in the middle of the tournament like this. If the event was held in Accra we would let him go for the night, but to have to travel to Togo, attend the ceremony and then fly back again disrupts our preparations and tires out the player,' Jodar told a news conference.

'If Kanoute goes and Mali lose, then I will be held responsible,' he added.

Jodar did let midfielder Momo Sissoko fly out of Ghana on Saturday to complete his signing for Juventus from Liverpool.

Sissoko is expected back at the tournament from Italy on Monday.