Moses Simon calls for 'right balance' as travel bans impact Nigeria squad

By Oluwashina OkelejiFootball Writer, Nigeria
Moses Simon
Nigeria and Nantes forward, Moses Simon

Nigeria forward Moses Simon hopes the "right balance" can be found between club and country, as the continent's footballers playing in the top two divisions of French football are stopped from leaving Europe for international fixtures.

The 25-year-old, who plays for Ligue 1 side Nantes, has been replaced in the Super Eagles squad for the final round of qualifying fixtures for next year's Africa Cup of Nations because of the ban imposed by the league organisers in France.

"The challenge is to find the right balance because I understand where the clubs are coming from due to the strict covid rules in France," Simon told BBC Sport Africa.

"My club Nantes is struggling and not in a good place, so it's difficult for the team to allow any of our players to travel.

"It's actually a sad and disappointing situation because I love to play for my country."

In search of a win to seal automatic qualification, the Super Eagles travel to Benin on 27 March before hosting Lesotho in Lagos three days later.

The squad suffered another setback after striker Sadiq Umar was withdrawn from the squad by his Spanish club Almeria due to Covid fears.

Defender Kenneth Omeruo, another player in Spain, has also been replaced in the Nigeria squad.

Under current Covid-19 guidelines, footballers arriving in European countries are subject to spend time in quarantine and they cannot train and play for their club when they return.

To exacerbate the situation, Fifa extended an exemption for clubs to refuse the release of their players if there is a mandatory quarantine of five days or more in place in the relevant country.

While upcoming South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup have been postponed to allay such fears, the critical African Cup of Nations games were not.

Simon says there is no easy solution and accepts there is little the players can do, even though some pundits have mooted the idea of moving African qualifiers to Europe during the pandemic.

"It's an option because we already play friendly games in Europe, but I don't know if countries will allow this," he explained.

"I believe Caf and Fifa can make the right decisions for the players and African football.

"The pandemic has affected everyone and not just footballers, plus our fans would love for us to play at home.

"It's not going to be easy but I know those in charge of football will find the right balance that fits countries and fits club."

Three time African champions Nigeria are currently top of Group L where all the teams, which include Benin, Sierra Leone and Lesotho, can still qualify for January's finals in Cameroon.

The Super Eagles have eight points, one ahead of the squirrels of Benin while the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone have three points and Lesotho two.