Wilfried Zaha rejects chance to play in African cup of nations

England new boy turns down Ivory Coast offer to join squad for January tournament

The Crystal Palace prodigy Wilfried Zaha has turned down the Ivory Coast's invitation to join their squad for January's African Cup of Nations in South Africa, with the Football Association increasingly confident that he will now commit his future to England having been called up to Roy Hodgson's squad for tomorrow's friendly against Sweden.

Zaha, 20, who was born in Abidjan and moved to England at the age of four, is eligible to play for both and has told friends that he will wait to see if Hodgson continues to select him next year before he makes his decision on which country to play for. Even if he plays some part for England in Stockholm tomorrow, he will still be eligible to play for the Ivory Coast.

He has been the subject of a concerted effort by the Ivory Coast football federation (Fif) to persuade him to play for his country of birth. He has been visited at home in south London by the president of the federation, Sidy Diallo, and been contacted by manager Sabri Lamouchi as well as Didier Drogba, who is currently in London ahead of the team's friendly against Austria in Linz tomorrow.

The Palace academy graduate, rated at £15m, was offered a place in the squad for the tournament in January and his decision to turn it down is the clearest commitment yet that he is prepared to play for England. His priority is to become a regular international for whatever country he chooses and that will inform his decision. However, he has told Fifa officials that he will not play for them unless he makes up his mind to reject England.

Stephen Browett, one of Palace's four co-owners, underlined the club's position yesterday that they did not wish to sell the player in January with the prospect of promotion to the Premier League still a reality. Nevertheless, the club is sure to be tested with all the top Premier League sides, including Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal, interested.

Get Adobe Flash player

 

The Fifa rules allow for a player to delay his final decision on which country he represents at international level. Article 18.1 of the Fifa regulations permit a player to change international allegiance providing he has not played "in an official competition at 'A' international level". Even if he was capped by England this week, Zaha could feasibly switch to the Ivory Coast as long as he did not play in a World Cup qualifier next year and made the change before his 21st birthday next November.

The former Palace manager Neil Warnock told The Independent yesterday the FA should do everything in its power to make sure that Zaha does not slip away from them as Chelsea's Victor Moses, another Palace academy graduate, did when he opted to play for Nigeria this year despite representing England at several junior levels after first arriving in the UK at the age of 11.

Now in charge at Leeds, Warnock believes England should not miss out on any naturalised players who have moved to the country as children. He said: "[Zaha] should have been courted by England, Stuart Pearce should have had him more involved in the Under-21s. I spoke to the FA about it at the time. It's no good waiting until he's playing for Chelsea. We're complaining about the amount of foreign players in the Premier League and we are losing ones who could play for England."

Generation game: England's experience

Euro 2012 squad

620 caps among 23 players, including one uncapped player, goalkeeper Jack Butland

Current squad

265 caps among 21 players. Roy Hodgson's revised squad includes seven uncapped players

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor