Dindane leaves Cup after death of daughter

January 20, 2006

CAIRO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast striker Aruna Dindane has left the African Nations Cup after the sudden death of one of his twin daughters and team officials are unsure if he will return.

'Aruna has left for his daughter's funeral,' Ivory Coast coach Henri Michel told Reuters on Friday. 'We don't know when he is going to come back.

'We all hope that he does return to be among us. But we don't know what day or how.'

Asked if he was certain the striker with French Ligue 1 club RC Lens would return, Michel said: 'That's what he told us yesterday.

'But we don't know how he is going to react, when it really hits him. We simply have to wait.'

Looking back, Michel said: 'A little more than a year ago, we lost assistant coach (Mama Ouattara) during a training session, before going to play in Egypt. After that there were all the political problems in Ivory Coast and now this.

'For a team, that is a series of heavy blows...I hope that in all this sadness we will find the strength we need.'

The absence of Dindane, who was an injury doubt for their Group A opener on Saturday against Morocco, would be a major blow to an Ivorian team where he plays up front alongside Didier Drogba.

'Aruna is one of the pillars of the team,' Drogba told reporters.

'But what he is going through now is so much more important than this competition, nobody here could hold it against him.

As for a possible return to the Cup, Drogba said: 'Perhaps, but it's down to him, how he feels. Nobody is going to force him to come back.

'The family is much more important than what we're doing here.'

Dindane played a key part in his country's first qualification for the World Cup, scoring six goals in the qualifiers.