European Clubs Can’t Be Annoyed At AFCON 2022
If it feels like the same old story appears every year, it’s because it does: the African Cup of Nations (AFCON2022) has rolled around again, and soccer clubs across Europe aren’t best pleased. In fairness, influential players usually miss crucial matches, however, the rhetoric has been challenged this year as pundits and fans spot the hypocrisy surrounding the tournament. Although it’s easy to see why teams and managers are annoyed on the surface, under the surface, it reeks of entitlement.
Africa Deserves a Showpiece
Africans love soccer. It’s their main sport, and their passion for it is unrivaled. That’s partly why the likes of the Premier League, La Liga, and Bundesliga command viewers abroad. It’s important to note that football betting odds across all leagues are consumed in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, whether it’s rooting for the +275 odds of Man City winning the club’s first Champions League since the 1960s or +700 for Sevilla to pip Real Madrid to the Spanish crown.
However, the lack of respect is something that African soccer supporters are noticing more and more. It was summed up by Ajax striker Sébastien Haller when he responded angrily to a question about joining up with his Ivory Coast teammates for AFCON. “Would this question ever be asked to a European player ahead of the Euros?”
No, it wouldn’t, and it doesn’t matter that the Euros or World Cup take place outside of standard season dates. After all, the latter is occurring in November this year and no one is batting an eyelid. Africa and Africans are dedicated to the continent’s showpiece competition, which is why its top players must attend.
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Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara broke down in tears after picking up the MOTM award in his first ever AFCON game 🥺
He made seven saves and kept a clean-sheet against reigning champions Algeria 👏 pic.twitter.com/ogRW18OqBz
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 11, 2022
Clubs Aren’t Overly Affected
One of the things that’s difficult to understand is why clubs are up in arms about the schedule. We’ll get onto the fact that they knew about it in advance later, but for now, let’s focus on the potential upheaval. Seeing as England is where most of the column inches come from, we’ll use it as an example.
Liverpool Football Club has the most players who represent African countries, including Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Yet when you look at the schedule, they will be back before February, even if Egypt or Senegal, with odds of +800 and +330 respectively, are the outright winners.
During that period, Liverpool has five matches. Still, two of those games are in the Premier League, whereas the rest are in lesser competitions such as the EFL Cup and FA Cup. Simply put, it won’t do Liverpool much harm, particularly since Salah, Mane, and co would have been rested anyway.
They Knew About the Tournament
It’s on the calendar biennially, so there aren’t any surprises when the African Cup of Nations does begin in earnest. Regardless, soccer clubs have the same agenda every two years. But how can they complain when they knew in advance?
Rather than moaning about the competition, they should do something about it before the players leave for Africa. For example, clubs could give the players who will replace the outgoing guys more time on the pitch. That way, they will be up to speed and less likely to make mistakes when they are expected to perform.
This year, the Confederation of African Football let players stay with clubs until January 3rd. So, it’s not as if the organizations aren’t accommodated. If it was the other way around, there’s no way they would give an inch.
The African Cup of Nations 2022 should be lauded like every major international tournament that fans around the world anticipate ahead of time. After all, they don’t come around too often.
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