Midfielder Alex Song has quit international soccer after being omitted from the Cameroon squad that will participate in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Equatorial Guinea from January 17 to February 8.
The 27-year-old, who plays for West Ham United in the English Premier League, made 47 appearances for his country’s senior team in the last decade.
Song said he will always love his country despite the disappointment of not playing in the regional championship.
“I want to take time to focus purely on domestic soccer and start to rebuild my career at West Ham United,” said Song, who joined the club on loan last August after two seasons with Barcelona in the Spanish League. He also spent seven seasons with Arsenal and a year with Charlton Athletic on loan.
Song last played for Cameroon in the World Cup group stage match against Croatia last June for striking forward Mario Mandzukic in the back with his elbow in an off-the-ball incident.
He received an automatic three-game suspension.
“Since the World Cup in the summer and my subsequent exclusion from the Cameroon squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, I have taken the decision to retire from international soccer,” he said. “It is true that there were some discussions of late to include me in the squad for this tournament, but I feel after a lot of careful thought and numerous discussions with my family that this is the right decision.”
The holder of a French passport, Song represented France at the Under-16 level before playing for the country of his birth at the Under-17, Under-23 and senior levels.
A four-time winner of the Africa Cup of Nations title, Cameroon is in the same group with Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mali.
Senegal striker Diafra Sakho, a teammate of Song at West Ham United, will miss the African championship because of injury.
“He’s not on the list of 23 players because his back problem is preventing him from even moving,” said Senegal’s coach, Alain Giresse.
Sakho, who has scored eight goals for West Ham, reinjured his back in his team’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion in a league draw on January 1.
Senegal, the runner-up in the 2002 tournament, plays Ghana on January 19, South Africa four days later and Algeria on January 27.
And, host country Equatorial Guinea will have a new coach when it opens the tournament against Congo on January 17.
Argentinian Esteban Becker, the women’s team coach since 2012 and the technical director of the country’s three national sides for the last two years, has replaced Andoni Goikoetxea whose contract was not renewed when it expired on December 31.
The Senegal Soccer Association claims Goikoetxea breached his contract by refusing to travel to Portugal with the national team last month.
Equatorial Guinea, which stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Morocco who wanted the tournament to be postponed because of the Ebola outbreak, will also face Burkina Faso and Gabon on Group “A”.