Udinese's attitude towards Africa is the right way forward

Ian Hawkey, European football correspondent, looks at Italian clubs' various attitudes regarding the African Cup of Nations.

 

There was a bittersweet mood around Udinese after their emphatic win over Cesena. The result kept them in the title chase, just behind AC Milan and Juventus. But farewells were said, too. 

The Ghanaian midfielders Manu Agyemang-Badu and Kwadwo Asamoah, and the Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia have departed for the African Cup of Nations and could be missed for as many as six Serie A fixtures, including matches against Juventus and Milan.

The schedule of the Cup of Nations has vexed clubs for two decades, ever since so many African footballers began to achieve success in Europe. Udinese are an example of a club hoisted upwards by African talent over many years, thanks particularly to Ghanaians. 

Milan, meanwhile, were alerted to the huge potential of Kevin-Prince Boateng when he starred for Ghana at the last World Cup. 

But, last November, Boateng told Ghana he was retiring from international football, aged 24. He said medical staff had advised him on the decision. 

If Milan had not directly told Boateng to quit, they cheered the development. Like Udinese, they have profited from African talent.

Unlike Udinese, they will not be compensating for that with any payback to the continent over the next six weeks. 

Boateng acknowledges it is "thanks to Ghana that Milan took notice of me". He is, of course, free to make decisions, as Milan are to advise him. But the give-and-take attitude to Africa shown by Udinese is a better one for the long-term health of the world game.

Published: January 11, 2012 04:00 AM

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