Tunisia’s Karim Haggui suspends international career

The Bundesliga-based defender says his decision is in the interest of the Carthage Eagles who are to begin 2014 World Cup qualifying without their captain this summer

Tunisian international defender Karim Haggui has decided to temporarily halt his international career after nearly a decade of playing for the Carthage Eagles. The 28-year-old cited problems with the environment surrounding the national team when he is called up as the reason for his choice.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, not just a week or a month. I made this choice because of the situation that the Tunisian national team is in and has been in before. I spoke to Sami Trabelsi about this and informed him of my decision,” he said while speaking to Mosaique FM.

“My temporary withdrawal from the national team is to help it concentrate and better prepare for 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and 2014 World Cup qualifiers. We’ve had outside pressures for a long while now and I think it has to do with my presence and that of a few other teammates which creates too much stress for the group.”

Haggui was excluded from the Carthage Eagles following the dismissal of Bertrand Marchand when rumours began circulating that he was influencing team selection and potential call-ups. Coach Trabelsi brought him back into the fold for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) to the dismay of some fans who believe that Club Africain defender Bilel Ifa has a better understanding with Toulouse’s Aymen Abdennour in central defence and is a more consistent performer than Haggui is.

Nevertheless, Trabelsi put his confidence in the Hannover centre-back, re-instating him as captain and playing Ifa out of position on the ride side of defence. With Haggui out of the picture, Etoile goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi will likely be awarded the captaincy.

Haggui said that he'd make himself available should Trabelsi or future coaches need him but that he prefers to step away from the squad for a while in order to see whether it can do better without him. The Kasserine native was heavily booed during Tunisia's 1-1 friendly draw against Peru on March 29 for commiting the foul which led to the visitors' equaliser. The play brought back memories of his shirt tug on a Malawi striker during 2012 Afcon qualifying that contributed to the Flames' surprising 2-2 comeback while playing a man down at Rades stadium.