Nigerian midfielder Kelechi Nwakali said his contract with Spanish second division side Huesca was terminated because he refused to bow to pressure not to play at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and for refusing a deadline day transfer.
Nwakali said he would “no longer suffer in silence” as he explained how the biggest honour of his life in being called up by Nigeria was quickly soured when Huesca’s sporting director Ruben Garcia said he should not travel.
“Ruben Garcia put extreme pressure on me not to go to AFCON due to it ‘not being an important tournament’. He told me that if I go to AFCON I will not play for Huesca again,” Nwakali said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This behaviour and the lack of respect shown to my country Nigeria was truly heartbreaking and it was just the latest example of the club attempting to bully me into getting their own way.”
Huesca announced on Tuesday they had terminated the 23-year-old’s contract but did not say why.
Huesca earlier told Reuters they “completely deny and disagree with the player’s accusations”, adding they would defend themselves in court if required.
“In relation to statements made by Kelechi Nwakali today… the club wishes to express its total repulsion at their lack of veracity, all with the total conviction that the club has acted at all times with the utmost respect for the player,” it said in a statement.
“However, and given the seriousness of some of the statements made in the statement, this club reserves the exercise of any actions it deems appropriate in defence of its legitimate rights and interests.”
Nwakali added the club had been pressurising him to sign a new contract by paying him late and a breakdown in negotiations came when his mother fell ill and he asked Garcia for wages the club owed him so he could pay for her treatment.
“Ruben Garcia responded to my request by saying ‘Sign this new contract and we will pay you what’s owed tonight’,” he said.
Nwakali said he could not return to the club immediately after Nigeria’s last-16 exit on Jan. 23 due to a respiratory tract infection.
“On the last day of the transfer market (Jan. 31)… Ruben Garcia rang me to tell me I had to leave the club after a late offer came in from another La Liga 2 club,” he said.
“He threatened that he would not pay me if I did not leave the club. The option that was given to me was ‘leave or we will open up disciplinary action’.
“Before January 31st, I was never told by the club that they wanted to let me leave in January and this was not a decision that I felt was right for me at the time.”
Nwakali said Garcia and the club’s lawyers opened disciplinary proceedings after he returned on Feb. 1 and banned him from training.
Although the Spanish Footballers Association (AFE) stepped in and Nwakali was allowed to train after a month, he was forced to train alone and was not allowed to use the facilities or receive treatment from the club’s physios.
“Yesterday when I turned up to the training ground, a member of the club tried to force me to sign mutual termination papers which I refused to do,” he added.
“I have a family that depends on me, and no player should have to go through this inhumane treatment.”
The AFE said Nwakali’s dismissal would be challenged in court as they look to safeguard his labour rights.
“AFE understands that, with this unilateral resolution adopted by the club, the labour rights of Kelechi Nwakali have been clearly violated,” it said.