Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira says the Africa Cup of Nations is just as important as the European Championships and should be respected as such.
The biennial tournament kicks off its 33rd edition on January 9 in Cameroon with 24 teams competing for the trophy currently held by Algeria, who beat Senegal in the 2019 final in Cairo.
Vieira, who was born in Senegal but represented France on the international stage, said that AFCON needed more coverage for people in the UK to see how important the tournament was.
Crystal Palace will see three of their first-team players head to Cameroon for the competition, with Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast), Jordan Ayew (Ghana) and Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) all selected to represent their countries.
The trio will be a sore loss for the Eagles over the coming month, but their manager said he had no problems letting them go.
“I respect and I understand the passion and the importance of those players to go and represent their country and their nation,” Vieira said at his press conference on Friday.
“I would never stop any players that are going to play the Africa Cup of Nations. I believe that that competition has to be respected more around. This competition is just as important as the European Championship.
“If there was more coverage of it I think people would understand more how important it is for the African continent.”
Earlier Vieira said he was unsurprised by the fact that three of his players had been called up to their countries for the tournament, and that he was pleased for Zaha who had his international future thrown into doubt last month.