AFCON: Southampton fully back Joe Aribo to represent Nigeria

Joe Aribo has received the full backing of his club, Southampton, to represent Nigeria at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Aribo is part of Jose Peseiro’s provisional squad for the tournament and is expected to make the final list that travels to Cote d'Ivoire.

The 27-year-old has been a key player for the Saints this season in their pursuit of a swift return to the Premier League, having relegated to the English Championship after last season.

The versatile midfielder has played 18 matches this term and netted his first goal of the season in his side’s 5-0 demolition of Swansea City on Boxing Day.

Aribo gets Southampton's green light for AFCON

Amidst talks over some clubs’ reluctance to release their African players for the AFCON, Southampton manager Russell Martin has said the club won’t stop Aribo from participating in the tournament.

The Saints boss insists the midfielder is always proud to don the Super Eagles shirt and wishes him well at the AFCON, which starts on January 13, 2024.

“Joe is incredibly proud to play for Nigeria. We can't stop anyone (from playing at AFCON),” Martin said, as quoted by the Southern Daily Echo.

“You want them to go there fit and come back fit. Joe needs to keep playing how he has been playing and I'm sure he will get into their squad. He has been a mainstay in their squad for quite a while. They go with everyone's best wishes – you want them to do well.”

Southampton boss wants Aribo’s AFCON shirt

Aribo was a part of the Super Eagles team that failed to make it past the last 16 at the 2022 AFCON in Cameroon. However, Southampton boss Martin believes Aribo will be a key figure for the Super Eagles as they hunt for an elusive fourth AFCON title.

The gaffer hopes the Super Eagles squad stays fit. He also joked that he’s asked the player to bring him his AFCON shirt for his son Martin.

“Hopefully they stay injury-free, that's the biggest thing. Joe has got incredible pride (for Nigeria). Every time he goes away a different member of staff asks him to bring one of his shirts back.

“I've asked him for his AFCON shirt for my son so he needs to get into the squad so he can bring a shirt back for him.”

Aribo and Nigeria find themselves in a tough Group A with hosts Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.