Former England footballer Ian Wright has claimed that media reports about European-based players traveling to the Africa Cup of Nations 2022 are “disrespectful”
Top stars heading to Cameroon for Africa’s flagship international football tournament in January and February 2022 face media coverage with “racist” undertones, according to ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright.
Wright, who has been targeted by racist social media trolls in the past and currently works as an analyst for the BBC, made the claim in a brief video he published to his Instagram profile, saying that the level of questions aimed at the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Eduoard Mendy and a host of other top African players differ wildly from the queries aimed at their European teammates ahead of their international tournaments.
The Africa Cup of Nations is due to kick off early next year and will feature a host of top African players from European clubs – many of whom will be away from their clubs for an extended spell as a result.
That, Wright says, has led to a level of disrespect towards African football when media figures ask players if they are going to accept international call-ups for the tournament while their clubs are chasing domestic and European honors.
“Is there ever a tournament more disrespected than the Africa Cup of Nations?” asked Wright.
“There is no greater honor than representing your country. The coverage is completely tinged with racism.”
Wright added that top English players would never be subjected to a similar line of questioning ahead of tournaments such as Euro 2020 in the summer – which, despite ending in July, led to a host of players missing the opening weeks of their domestic seasons as they recovered.
“We played our Euros across 10 countries in the middle of a pandemic and there’s no issue at all.
“But Cameroon, a single country hosting a tournament, is a problem,” Wright added.
“You are getting journalists asking players… players getting asked if they will be honoring the call-ups to their national teams.
“Imagine if that was an English player representing the Three Lions. Can you imagine the furor?”
There is little doubt that most Premier League managers, for example, would ideally prefer if the tournament wasn’t taking place in January amid the hectic football calendar at this time of year, which has been exacerbated by Covid-19.
But Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who is set to lose top stars Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew and Cheikhou Kouyate for the duration of the tournament, says that players cannot be denied the privilege of representing their country.
“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,” said the Frenchman.
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Wright, though, concluded by stating that African football deserves respect, particularly with some of European football’s biggest names arriving from the continent.
“Loads of the best players in Europe right now are African,” said the former England international.
“If we love them at club level, why can’t we love them at international level like their counterparts across the globe? Why is this tournament constantly getting so much flak?”