AFCON: Boniface aims for debut as Leverkusen shifts stance

Bayer Leverkusen forward Victor Boniface envisions making his Africa Cup of Nations debut for Nigeria in January, just as his German club comes to terms with the likelihood of missing several African stars during the tournament from January 13 to February 11 in Ivory Coast, according to PUNCH Sports Extra.

The 22-year-old, along with his compatriot Nathan Tella, is among Leverkusen’s potential absentees as the tournament kicks off in January. The other potential absentees are Odilon Kossounou (Ivory Coast), Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso), and Amine Adli (Morocco).

“It is the dream of every football player from Nigeria to represent their country and win a trophy for the country. So, we’re looking forward to the next AFCON,” Boniface told DW after their 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.

Boniface is currently Leverkusen’s top scorer this season with eight goals and five assists, leading Xabi Alonso’s pursuit of a first title in 30 years. However, the Leverkusen hierarchy is concerned about the timing of the competition, with CEO Fernando Carro contemplating legal action to prevent the players from representing their countries. Meanwhile, managing director Simon Rolfes has taken a more conciliatory stance, stating that the players will be allowed to go if invited.

“The thing with the African Cup is for sure it is not ideal, but we would love to have the African Cup in the European summer, at the summer break between the seasons,” Rolfes told DW. “I know that the players are proud to play for their countries; I know that from my playing time, it was the same. And we are happy and proud that we have so many national team players representing their countries.

“We have to deal with this. We have a really good squad, and I think we can handle this situation, but it is not ideal. But in life, there are some situations where you have to deal with this, and we will do.”

Nigeria’s provisional list for the tournament is expected to be submitted to CAF on December 14, while the final squad list will be released days before the start of the tournament.



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