Afcon is being ‘disrespected,’ according to Wright

The Africa Cup of Nations is being “disrespected” by some negative publicity, according to former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright.

The 24-team competition kicks off on January 9th and will feature a slew of Premier League and European stars.

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira is among those who have called for the tournament to be given more respect.

“Has there ever been a tournament more despised than the Africa Cup of Nations?” Wright stated on Instagram.

Regarding the media coverage of the Afcon, he stated: “There is no greater honor than representing your country. Racism pervades the coverage.

“We played our Euros across ten countries in the midst of a pandemic, and there was no problem at all. However, Cameroon, a single country hosting a tournament, poses a problem.

“Players are being asked if they will honor their national team call-ups. Imagine if that was an England player representing the Three Lions. Can you imagine the uproar?”

Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller of Ajax said the suggestion that a player would want to miss the tournament to play for their club “shows disrespect for Africa.”

He told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: “Would this [question] ever have been posed to a European player in the run-up to a European Championship?

“Of course, I will go to represent Ivory Coast. That is the highest honor.”

However, the 27-year-old admitted that missing club games was “very frustrating.” “I hate having to choose between my country and my club,” Haller added.

Although several Premier League clubs will be without key players in January, including Crystal Palace, who will be without Cheikhou Kouyate, Wilfried Zaha, and Jordan Ayew, Eagles manager Patrick Vieira echoed Haller’s sentiments.

“I respect and understand the passion and importance for players to go and represent their country, so I will never stop any player from going to play in the Africa Cup of Nations,” said Vieira, a World Cup and European Championship winner with France.

“I believe that competition should be more respected, because this competition is as important as the European Championships.”

Aspirants for the title Liverpool will be missing several key players, including Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and midfielder Naby Keita.

Leaders Manchester City will be without Riyad Mahrez, while 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 Hotspur are the only Premier League clubs that have not lost any players to the tournament.

Players are allowed to play for their clubs until 3 January before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations, after Fifa rules requiring clubs to release players by 27 December were changed “in the spirit of goodwill and solidarity.”

“Lots of the best players in Europe right now are African,” Wright said.

“If we love them at the club level, why can’t we love them at the international level like their counterparts around the world? Why is this tournament constantly getting slammed?

“I have to commend players like Sebastien Haller for standing up to the media backlash, as well as Patrick Vieira for speaking out about it.

“This is why it is critical to have a black manager who can explain where his roots are and how important this tournament is to Africans.

“I want to wish Cameroon every success in hosting this tournament, as well as all the best to the players and fans.”

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