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Monday, December 19, 2005
Nigerian FA urge Aiyegbeni to call off boycott

LAGOS, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Nigeria and Middlesbrough striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni has been urged by his country's Football Association not to boycott next month's African Nations Cup finals.

Aiyegbeni was quoted by local media last weekend as saying he would not go to the Jan. 20-Feb. 10 finals in Egypt because he does not have a good relationship with Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen.

'The coach said he wasn't going to use me (so) I have made up my mind, I want to stay with my club during the competition,' Aiyegbeni, who scored in Middlesbrough's 3-3 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, said.

Nigeria Football Association chairman Ibrahim Galadima has asked the 23-year-old, a key figure in the side who has scored nine times in the league for his English club this season, to change his mind.

'We want him in the side and he should consider those Nigerians who look up to him as a role model,' Galadima told reporters on Monday.

'It's disappointing when any player who is doing well makes this kind of decision.'

Relations with Eguavoen have been strained since September when Aiyegbeni played only the last two minutes of Nigeria's World Cup qualifier win over Algeria in Oran.

Aiyegbeni was not called up for subsequent Nigeria matches.

The team just missed out on a place at next year's World Cup finals in Germany. They finished equal on points with Angola in their group but the Angolans went through with a better head-to-head record against the Nigerians.

Eguavoen has included the striker in a 49-man provisional squad due to start their Nations Cup preparations in the Portuguese coastal resort of Faro on Wednesday.

It is not the first time Aiyegbeni has been involved in a row with Nigerian soccer officials.

During the 2004 Nations Cup in Tunisia, he was sent home with defender Celestine Babayaro and striker Victor Agali for breaking a curfew.

Nigeria have been drawn with West African rivals Ghana and Senegal as well as Zimbabwe in Group D. They are aiming for a third Nations Cup win in Egypt after previous victories in 1980 and 1994. They finished third at the last tournament, won by Tunisia.

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