The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is due to get underway in Cameroon on January 9.
Proud footballing nations like the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria and countless others will battle it out to be crowned as the champions of Africa.
It’s also a prestigious tournament at which some of the world’s very best players will compete with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Edouard Mendy, to name just a few, ready to take the stage.
Disrespect towards AFCON
But all that considered, one can’t help feeling as though AFCON doesn’t receive anywhere near as much respect as its continental counterparts: the European Championships and Copa America.
Oh, and lest we forget that the FIFA Club World Cup is mind-bogglingly scheduled to begin while AFCON is still being contested despite African Champions League winners Al Ahly having qualified.
Wright addresses AFCON disrespect
We could go on and on about the worrying handling of AFCON within the footballing calendar, but we’re well aware that we couldn’t put it anywhere near as poignantly as Ian Wright has done.
That’s because the Arsenal icon opened a very important conversation by discussing whether or not AFCON is the most disrespected tournament in sports with a video on his TikTok account.
In less than two minutes, Wright passionately outlined many of the issues surrounding both football and the media’s perception of what should rightfully be held up as one of the sport’s finest events.
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Wright’s important comments
In the viral clip, Wright affectingly mused: “Is there ever a tournament more disrespected than the Africa Cup of Nations? There is no great honour, none other than representing your country.
“The coverage is completely tinged with racism. We played our Euros across 10 countries in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and no issues. Cameroon, a single country hosting the tournament is a problem.
“Imagine a journalist asking players if they will be honouring the call ups for their national teams. Have you ever heard anyone asking Three Lion players if they ever honour a call-up?”
It really is when you start to apply the filter of perceptions around AFCON to the Euros and Copa America that the way in which it is handled appears all the more worrying and in need of addressing.
Wright continued: “Some of the best players in Europe right now are Africans. If we love them at our clubs, why not love them at their national teams across the globe.
“Why is this tournament constantly getting so much flak? Shout outs to countries that have qualified and players like Sebastien Haller who has taken a stand against the media backlash plus Patrick Vieira.
“Vieira coming out and speak about it. And being a black manager, people can understand where his roots are and how important this tournament is to African people.
“This shame has gone on for too long. That’s why I wish Cameroon all success in hosting this tournament and like I said to the players, all the very best and the fans.”
AFCON deserves more respect
Wright’s words on AFCON are incredibly important and exactly the sort of conversations that we need to be having in football.
It is absolutely vital that those most knowledgeable about African football and the unconscious bias that it faces are given their say about how such a prestigious competition should be handled.
Wright, Haller and Vieira have already made their voices heard with incredibly important points and comments. The moral of the story couldn’t be any clearer: AFCON deserves more respect.