Can football players unilaterally retire from international duty? The Joël Matip & Allan Nyom cases

Published 21 February 2017 By: Andrew Smith

Football player mid air to kick ball

The prospect of a player being deemed ineligible by FIFA to play for his club, because of his unwillingness to report for international duty, recently came to the fore in two cases involving (former) Cameroon international defenders plying their trade in the Premier League, namely Joël Matip of Liverpool and Allan Nyom of West Bromwich Albion. 

With regard to Matip, prior to Liverpool’s third round FA Cup replay at Plymouth Argyle in January[1], it was reported that Jürgen Klopp was seeking legal advice as regards Matip’s eligibility for selection, having failed to receive confirmation from FIFA or the Cameroon football federation on this issue.[2] Matip had not been selected in Cameroon’s final 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations and, so far as Liverpool were concerned, had retired from international football in 2015. Matip had, however, initially been listed in Cameroon’s preliminary squad for the international tournament due to take place on 14 January – 5 February 2017. Owing to the uncertainty surrounding Matip’s eligibility, the player had been omitted from Liverpool’s squad to face Manchester United and Plymouth, before FIFA gave the go ahead for him to play for the club, in time for their Premier League clash with Swansea.[3]

A similar situation arose in respect of Nyom, who reportedly flew to Cameroon from France in January 2017 to inform officials from the Cameroon football federation that he did not wish to represent his country at the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations.[4] Nyom was also left out of Cameroon’s final 23-man squad for the tournament, but uncertainty arose in respect of his eligibility to play for WBA whilst the tournament was ongoing. In the event, Nyom was cleared to play by FIFA in time for WBA’s Premier League match against Sunderland.[5]  


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Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Andrew is a barrister practising from Matrix Chambers in London. He is an employment law specialist, and has a keen interest in sports law and sport generally. His Matrix profile (including Directory recommendations) may be viewed here.

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