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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Huesca Terminated My Contract Because I Represented Nigeria at AFCON — Kelechi Nwakali

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Former Arsenal midfielder and Nigeria international Kelechi Nwakali has accused Spanish club Huesca of pressurising him to miss this year’s AFCON and accept a transfer away before terminating his contract.

The 23-year-old took to social media to post a series of lengthy allegations against the second-tier Spanish side – which Huesca have strenuously denied via a statement.

Nwakali featured three times for Nigeria in this January’s AFCON but claimed that Huesca sporting director Ruben Garcia pressurised him not to be involved in the tournament in Cameroon.

The midfielder has insisted he no longer wishes to “suffer in silence”.

Nwakali wrote in his statement: “Ruben Garcia put extreme pressure on me not to go to AFCON due to it ‘not being an important tournament’. He told me that if I go to AFCON I will not play for Huesca again.

“This behaviour and the lack of respect shown to my country Nigeria was truly heartbreaking and it was just the latest example of the club attempting to bully me into getting their own way.”

The midfielder joined Arsenal in 2016 from the Diamond Football Academy, after helping his nation win the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup – a tournament in which his fine performances saw him win Golden Ball Award.

The Gunners beat a string of Europe’s leading sides, including Manchester City, German, Dutch and Spanish clubs to his signing. He would go on to have three loan stints away from the North London club, including making 16 appearances for Porto B, before joining Huesca in 2019.

Huesca pointed towards their statement of ‘total rejection’ to the claims in response with nothing further to add: “The club wishes to express its total rejection of [Nwakali’s] lack of veracity, all with the total conviction that the club has acted at all times with the utmost respect for the player.

“Although, and given the seriousness of some of the statements made in the statement, the club reserves the exercise of any actions it deems appropriate in defence of its legitimate rights and interests.”

Nwakali – whose contract was terminated this week – accused Huesca of pressurising him to sign a new contract by not paying his wages on time, with the situation deteriorating when the player’s mother became ill and he made a request to the club’s sporting director Garcia for his wages, so that he could help pay for her treatment.

The Nigerian’s statement on Wednesday added of that request: “Ruben Garcia responded to my request by saying: ‘Sign this new contract and we will pay you what’s owed tonight’. On the last day of the transfer market… Ruben Garcia rang me to tell me I had to leave the club after a late offer came in from another Segunda club. He threatened that he would not pay me if I did not leave the club. The option that was given to me was: ‘Leave or we will open up disciplinary action’. Before January 31, I was never told by the club that they wanted to let me leave in January and this was not a decision that I felt was right for me at the time.”

The player explained that he did not play in Nigeria’s Round of 16 clash against Tunisia as he had begun to feel unwell and was subsequently diagnosed with Respiratory Tract Infection – and was subsequently advised by medics not to return to the club immediately due to his health. It was at this juncture, upon his return to the club, that he claims he was pressurised to leave.

Nwakali said Garcia and the club’s lawyers opened disciplinary proceedings after he returned on February 1 and banned him from training with the club. While the Spanish Footballers Union (AFE) then intervened to allow him to return to training after more than a month, the player explains that he was forced to train alone and was not allowed to use the club’s facilities or receive treatment from Huesca’s physios. Despite the AFE’s position, the player’s contract was terminated this week. Nwakali’s final appearance for the club had come against Girona on January 2, before he departed for international duty.

Nwakali’s statement added: “Throughout this time, Huesca have not paid my wages, yet I have remained silent hoping that a reasonable resolution could be found. But yesterday (Tuesday) when I turned up to the training ground, a member of the club tried to force me to sign mutual termination papers which I refused to do. I have a family that depends on me, and no player should have to go through this inhumane treatment.” The player concluded: “All I want to do is get back to playing the sport I love.”

The AFE players union said via a statement on Wednesday evening: “Given the numerous information that is appearing, some erroneous, AFE wants to clarify that the dismissal will be challenged – as it cannot be otherwise – before the courts of the city of Huesca with the aim of continuing to safeguard the labour rights of the soccer player. AFE understands that, with this unilateral resolution adopted by the club, the labour rights of Kelechi Nwakali have been clearly violated.”

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