Friday 27 April 2018

Nyon gnomes hold back new Paul McGrath

UCD's Maxi Kouogun (L) in action against Finn Harps' Wilfried Tagbo. Photo: Sportsfile
UCD's Maxi Kouogun (L) in action against Finn Harps' Wilfried Tagbo. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean Ryan

Don't expect UCD centre-back Maxi Kouogun to be favourably disposed towards Qatar or the gnomes of Nyon, aka Fifa. In the past four years, their machinations have denied him Republic of Ireland caps at under 17 and under 19 level.

Born in Cameroon, Kouogun was five months old when his family moved to Ireland. He started his football career with Peamount when he was seven, then moved to Leixlip, before joining Cherry Orchard at under 10.

"I've only been back to Cameroon twice," he explained, "when I was five and for my father's funeral when I was 10. My family got Irish citizenship when I was 15 and I've had an Irish passport since then, while my two younger siblings were born in Ireland."

Tom Mohan, who was then under 17 manager, called Kouogun up for international duty, but his plans were frustrated by Fifa, who refused international clearance.

"I was put in the under 17 squad to fly out to Armenia for a European qualifier," Kouogun recalled, "and then I was told I didn't qualify. The decision came from Fifa. I understand that the FAI had to prove that I wasn't brought to Ireland just to play football. Qatar imported Brazilian players, and after that Fifa clamped down."

Apparently, Fifa don't know the difference between migrants and imports, or five-month-olds and U-20s. Last season, Kouogun, who is on a soccer scholarship at UCD studying economics and statistics, featured in UCD's Europa League campaign, and experienced no problems travelling to Luxembourg or Slovakia.

He also earned high praise from manager Collie O'Neill, who noted that Kouogun had broken all the club's speed records and claimed that he was "potentially another Paul McGrath".

High praise indeed, and an opinion which seemed to be shared by under 19 manager Paul Doolin, who called him up for international duty only to be frustrated by Fifa again.

"Paul kept in touch and updated me, but as far as I'm concerned it's an ongoing process," said Kouogun. "I've just turned 19, so the next stage is the under 21s, and I can't see Noel King selecting someone from the First Division."

Enquiries to the person in the FAI making the case for Kouogun with Fifa elicited the response: "I'm not permitted to speak to the media."

When Switzerland played in the Aviva in March, we asked a Swiss journalist how many of their team were Swiss. "About five or six," was the reply.

"And where do you get your players from?" we enquired. "Mainly from Albania," was the response.

One law for Fifa's host country, it seems, another for Ireland. But then what would you expect from one of sport's most corrupt bodies?

The victim in all this is Kouogun, whose progress in his football career has been stymied by a body who lack credibility, and by the failure of the FAI to secure justice for their player.

Sunday Indo Sport

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