BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

AFCON 2022: European conspiracy beyond football

African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is the biggest showpiece continental competition in Africa just like its counterparts in Asia, South America, and Europe.

Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool Football Club was quoted as saying, “In January there is a little tournament in Africa.” This he said to express how much hatred and belittling the Europeans has for Africa and its success.

Even in the face of many media calls to apologise, Klopp held to his gun, refusing to apologise, rather he took a diversified approach by trying to justify what he said and/or mean.

No doubt Liverpool is among the sides that will strongly be affected by the continental competition, with the duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane set for the competition.

Earlier on AFCON was brought under severe attacks from the European Association of Clubs (ECA) with threats not to release international players for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations starting on January 9 and running until February 6 in Cameroon.

ECA’s bone of contention is that African Football Confederation (CAF) has not yet made public an adequate medical and operational protocol for the tournament.

“Against this background, please note that, at its meeting of December 2021, the ECA Executive Board unanimously re-confirmed its position that the three principles referred to above must be strictly respected and, should this not be the case, that players not be released for national team duty,” ECA’s statement read in part.

As a matter of fact, ECA represents the interests of professional association football clubs in Europe. The association explained that CAF is yet to make known its suitable and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament, in the absence of which clubs will not be able to release players to feature in the tournament.

Be that as it may, one would wonder if the tournament was to be Copa América, would ECA and their clubs block the players from representing their countries?

We have records of many players testing positive to Covid-19 in Europe, yet ECA still allows games to be played. Even in the face EURO 2020 tournament, some players tested positive to Covid-19 and their countries were allowed the privilege to change them or allow them to recover before including them for games.

Read also: With eyes on the trophy Eguavoen names ‘strong’ squad for 2021 AFCON

The body language of European clubs, managers, and ECA is nothing but racist. No doubt the time for the AFCON coincides with the peak of European clubs’ critical time of the season, but it should be noted that these clubs are aware of AFCON and other tournaments held in Africa. Using African players to achieve their football goals without giving the players and the continent any iota of respect is uncalled.

Watford Football Club has refused to release Emmanuel Dennis of Nigeria, and Ismaila Sarr of Senegal. Napoli tactically stopped Victor Osimhen from representing Nigeria, while preparing him to play against Bologna.

Watford’s persistence in its deliberate refusal to release the players is a slap on CAF and Africa as a whole. This action contravenes the basic rights of African footballers to play for their country. And this should not be so!

Following the views of Ian Wright former England international player who said he was even incensed by some of the media outlets’ coverage of the 24-team tournament which he described as tinged with racism.

He stated it categorically that Europe play its Euros across 10 countries in the middle of a pandemic and there was no issue at all. But Cameroon, a single country hosting a tournament, is a problem; there is more to it than meets the eye.

Wright’s opinion was shared by former French international and Crystal Palace coach Patrick Vieira who asked that the tournament be shown more respect.

“I respect and understand the passion and the importance to players to go and represent their country so I will never stop any player going to play the Africa Cup of Nations,” Viera said.

It is time for Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe, the CAF president, and his cabinet to rise up to the challenges. African has had enough of these insults and disrespect, especially from its European counterparts.

After all, FIFA rules and regulations are explicit in stating that clubs are obliged to release any of their registered players to a national representative team if they are called up to a squad.

Principle 1.1 of the regulations, says: “Clubs are obliged to release their registered players to the representative teams of the country for which the player is eligible to play on the basis of his nationality if they are called up by the association concerned. Any agreement between a player and a club to the contrary is prohibited.”

So why are African football stakeholders and shareholders keeping silent over this obvious robbery and discrimination from European clubs? It is uncalled for and should be resisted. Africans in the diaspora should rise up and denounce this ugly act.

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