Mali players concerned with their country's political situation

Mali professionals say they are very depressed about the future of their country following its partition between north and south by rebels and Islamists

A number of Mali internationals have voiced concerns after after Tuareg rebels and Islamic groups seized northern cities and unilaterally declared independence of the Azawad territory last week.

Calls for peace from sportspeople, especially footballers, have had slim impact on political crises in the West African sub-region, which the Eagles’ captain Cédric Kanté believes would likely not change with their interventions in the Malian conflict.

“I don’t believe the stakeholders of the conflict would heed our calls as footballers,” the 32-year-old Panathinaikos centre back said in an interview with France Football.

“The Tuareg rebels will not listen to our calls for peace. I’m very sure of that. They have decided to cut themselves away to form another country, which is very sad for us as Malians. I wish politicians could listen to sportspeople.”

French-born Sigamary Diarra of FC Lorient, who switched allegiance to play for Mali in 2004, expressed the same anguish many ordinary Malians have been feeling since the troubles began more than a month ago.

“It all happened so sudden and everybody back seems to still be in a shock,” Diarra said. “It’s like waking up one cool morning and seeing your country being split in two, with refugees trooping out to neighbouring countries,” the midfielder added.

“We don’t know when this will all end for good, but there is little hope that a solution will be reached soon. We are as depressed as our families back home,” he said.

Although most of the players’ families reside in southern Mali, they wish for a reunification of the onetime peace haven to end the crisis and create peaceful environment for the upcoming 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.