The Africa Cup of Nations coverage is “completely tinged with racism”, according to Arsenal and England legend Ian Wright.
The latest edition in Cameroon has courted controversy as it will take place during the European club season, while reports have previously suggested it could be scrapped due to the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron Covid variant.
Wright claims the AFCON is repeatedly disrespected by the media asking if players will honour their call-ups and whether Cameroon can host the tournament in a pandemic – despite the European Championship taking place across 11 host cities on the continent.
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The AFCON finals kick off on January 9 in Cameroon.
“Is there a tournament more disrespected than the African Cup of Nations?” Wright said on TikTok.
"There’s no greater honour as a sportsperson than representing your country. The coverage is completely tinged with racism – completely tinged.
“We play our Euros across 10 competitions in the middle of a pandemic and there’s no issue at all. But Cameroon, a single country hosting the tournament, is a problem?
“You’ve got players being asked if they will be honouring the call-ups for their national teams. Imagine if that was an English player representing the Three Lions. Have you ever heard anyone asking an English player if he will be honouring the call-up? Can you imagine the furore?
“Loads of the best players in Europe right now are African. And if we love them at club level, why can’t we love them at international level like their counterparts from across the world? Why can’t we? Why is this tournament constantly getting so much flak?”
A host of clubs are set to lose star players during the tournament, including Liverpool (Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita) and Wright’s former team Crystal Palace (Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew and Cheikhou Kouyate).
Wright praised Ivory Coast and Ajax striker Sebastian Haller for slamming the “disrespect” being shown to the AFCON, while he also applauded Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who was born in Senegal, for saying he would never stop a player competing in the tournament and that it is “as important as the European Championships.”
“Patrick Vieira coming out and speaking about this. This again is why it’s important you have a Black manager,” continued Wright.
“You can let people understand where his roots are and how important this tournament is for African people. The shaming has gone on for too long.”
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