Although there were suggestions that Liverpool could risk the wrath of FIFA by playing Joel Matip in their FA Cup replay with Plymouth Argyle at Home Park tomorrow, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has revealed that football’s world governing body is set to make a definitive decision regarding the defender’s eligibility to play for the Reds while his home country of Cameroon competes at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Having last played for the Indomitable Lions over a year ago, the 25-year old considers himself retired from international football and made it publicly clear since as early as September that he would not be representing his country this winter. Although there was some maneuvering from Cameroon boss Hugo Broos to get him to reconsider, the Belgian ultimately ended up leaving Matip out of the squad for AFCON.
Now, one would think that would be enough to clear Matip to play for Liverpool, but FIFA has taken a dim view of this whole affair. Not willing to risk an overturned result and possibly a sanction, the Reds were forced to leave him out of the team that drew with Manchester United at the weekend after failing to receive clarification regarding his eligibility in a timely fashion. Even after they took the time out of their busy lives to grace us with a response, in typically gauche FIFA fashion, it was as clear as mud and only served to point the Reds hierarchy to their own official and frankly ambiguous rules. Should the 25-year old be deemed ineligible to play and they decide to take action against him, he could be barred from playing for the Anfield outfit until the tournament is over — a decision that should be made before the meeting with Swansea City at the weekend.
“The procedure is that I would consider to line him up tomorrow, but I don’t know if I can, that’s the thing,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking to the press ahead of the meeting with the Pilgrims. “From the sports side, it would make absolute sense, [it’s a] perfect game for him and all that stuff, but I’m not sure if I can,” added the clearly exasperated German. “The thing is that FIFA told us that on Friday, this Friday, they will decide if they open a case about it or not. I accept rules in life, wherever, but I think they should always be based on human sense.”