Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira says that the Africa Cup of Nations should be more respected.
Vieira, the former Arsenal and France captain, added that he cannot stop his players going to AFCON.
The comments comes after some Premier League clubs earlier threatened to boycott the AFCON due to Covid19.
The tournament is due to take place between January 9 and February 6 in Cameroon next year and will leave some clubs without key stars for over a month.
“I respect and I understand the passion and importance of those players to go and represent their country. I will never stop any players going to the Africa Cup of Nations,” Vieira is quoted by Crystal Palace media.
“I believe that competition has to be more respected because this competition is as important as the European Championship.
“With Senegal, I don’t think people understand [Sadio] Mane or Cheikhou Kouyate not representing their nation. If there was more coverage people will understand how important it is for the African continent.”
Palace players set for 2021 AFCON in Cameroon are Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast), Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) and Jordan Ayew (Ghana).
Did You Know
Patrick Vieira’s family moved from Senegal to Dreux, France, when he was eight, and he did not return to Senegal until 2003.
His parents divorced when Vieira was young, and he never met his father again.
His grandfather served in the French Army, making him eligible for French nationality at birth.
His surname Vieira, which is Portuguese, is the maiden name of his mother, who is from Cape Verde.