Aside from the odd rash challenge in the opposition penalty area, Steven Pienaar has quickly established himself as an important player for Everton this season, helping them rise up the Premier League and into the Carling Cup semi-finals. However, as The Guardian reports, the Toffees have failed in their attempt to field him against Chelsea, after FIFA ruled that the South African must instead travel out to Ghana for the African Nations Cup.
The South African FA contacted Fifa yesterday and when the world governing body told Everton that its rule requiring players to be released for national duty 14 days before major tournaments related to the start date of such tournaments, not to their team’s first game, the club appeared to back down. “Steven is going to London but not to Stamford Bridge,” a club spokesman said last night. “He will be flying out from Heathrow. We have been contacted by Fifa and told he has to be released by us ahead of the Chelsea match.”
As it already stands, Pienaar is now the only South African player not to have joined the training camp in Ghana. Are Everton guilty of trying to bend the rules? They must have realised when they took the Borussia Dortmund player on loan that he was scheduled to fly out after the weekend’s action.