Africa Cup of Nations: tournament “disrespectful”, says former England striker Ian Wright
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The Africa Cup of Nations is “disrespectful” by some negative media coverage, said former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright.
The 24-team competition kicks off on January 9 and will feature a host of stars from the Premier League and Europe.
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira is also among those who will also be calling the tournament have more respect.
“Is there ever a tournament more disrespectful than the Africa Cup of Nations?” Wright said on Instagram.
On media coverage around Afcon, he said: “There is no greater honor than to represent your country. The cover is completely tinged with racism.
“We have played our euros in 10 countries in the midst of a pandemic and there is no problem. But Cameroon, only one country hosting a tournament, is a problem.
“Players are asked if they will honor their national teams’ invitations. Imagine if it was an English player representing the Three Lions. Can you imagine the fury?”
Ivorian Ajax striker Sébastien Haller said the suggestion that a player would want to miss the tournament to play for his club “shows the lack of respect for Africa”.
He told the Dutch newspaper From Telegraaf: “Does this [question] ever been asked of a European player for a European Championship?
“Of course, I will represent the Ivory Coast. It is the greatest honor.”
However, the 27-year-old said having to miss club games “is very frustrating”. Haller added: “I hate having to choose between my country and my club.”
Although several Premier League clubs will be without key players in January – including Crystal Palace who are set to lose Cheikhou Kouyate, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew – the Eagles boss Vieira echoed Haller’s sentiments.
“I respect and understand the passion and importance for players to go represent their country, so I will never stop any player from playing the Africa Cup of Nations,” said Vieira, World Cup winner and the European Championship as a player with France. .
“I think the competition should be respected more – because this competition is as important as the European Championships.”
Title hopes Liverpool face significant absences, with Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah, compatriot Sadio Mane and midfielder Naby Keita set to take part in the tournament.
Manchester City leaders will lose Riyad Mahrez, while second-placed Chelsea will be without goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and West Ham’s Said Benrahma will be with Algeria.
Leeds United, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Tottenham are the only Premier League clubs not to lose a player for the tournament.
Players are allowed to play for their clubs until January 3 before leaving for the Africa Cup of Nations after Fifa rules stating that clubs must release players by December 27 have been changed “in a spirit of good will and solidarity “.
“Most of the best players in Europe at the moment are African,” said Wright.
“If we love them at the club level, why can’t we love them internationally like their counterparts around the world? Why is this tournament constantly criticized?
“I must salute players like Sébastien Haller who are taking a stand against the media reaction, as well as Patrick Vieira for coming and talking about it.
“That’s why it’s important to have a black manager who can make people understand where his roots are and how important this tournament is to Africans.
“I wish Cameroon every success in organizing this tournament and all the best to the players and fans.”
You can follow the coverage of the Africa Cup of Nations on the BBC, the last of the tournament’s 10 matches will be broadcast live.
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