Belfast Telegraph

Sakho hits back at critics

West Ham striker Diafra Sakho has spoken of his "sadness and anger" at criticism directed towards him for not representing Senegal at the African Nations Cup this month.

Sakho was ruled out of the three-week tournament with a back injury, but came off the bench to score the winner on Sunday as the Hammers beat Bristol City 1-0 in the FA Cup fourth round.

A number of Senegal fans vented their frustration on Sakho's official Facebook page by posting comments underneath a picture of him celebrating the goal at Ashton Gate.

One wrote: "So you're not injured?" and another commented: "Congratulations on your goal, I hope you never play for Senegal again, the Senegalese people feel betrayed."

Sakho responded: "I took the time to browse all your reactions on social networks. Very quickly my joy from scoring and rescuing my club has turned into sadness and anger.

"Sadness because some of your words touched me deep in my person and my heart and this, without you knowing what has really happened.

"And great anger, because after all my struggles day after day, season after season to finally wear the jersey of my homeland, and my family, the only nation that matters to me - you doubt my love and my patriotism.

"My absence at CAN 2015 (the African Nations Cup), my first CAN, was not painless.

"The dream of contributing to the victory of my country got away from me this year, but it is not dead!

"Never doubt the lion sleeping in me, as I never doubt the passion that burns within you."

Senegal accused West Ham of a "lack of respect" when the striker withdrew from the African Nations Cup earlier this month and threatened to consult FIFA and the Football Association to prevent the 25-year-old from playing during the competition.

Sakho, who has scored 10 goals since moving to Upton Park in the summer, suffered a recurrence of a back injury against West Brom on New Year's Day.

Senegal asked to carry out their own medical assessment on the striker, as is their right according to FIFA rules, but West Ham said Sakho could not fly and suggested Senegal's doctors came to London instead.

The Hammers also sent Senegal independent medical reports, as well as the club's own examinations, to prove the extent of the injury.

FIFA told Press Association Sport it would not comment on individual cases, but Annexe 1 of its regulations state: ''A player who has been called up by his association for one of its representative teams is, unless otherwise agreed by the relevant association, not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe.

''This restriction on playing for the club shall, moreover, be prolonged by five days in the event that the player, for whatsoever reason, did not wish to or was unable to comply with the call-up.''

Sakho could feature in two further games before the African Nations Cup ends, as West Ham play Liverpool and Manchester United before the tournament final on February 8.

Senegal are top of Group C and need only a draw against Algeria on Tuesday to qualify for the knockout stages.

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