Alan Shearer exclusive: ’AFCON is fantastic and I can see why players want to play in it’
The Premier League great throws his weight behind on-going Africa Cup of Nations.
The Africa Cup of Nations is a fantastic tournament and Premier League clubs should be more accommodating, Newcastle legend Alan Shearer has declared.
The tournament is held once every two years, and due to Covid delays this year’s tournament in Cameroon clashes with the business end of the Premier League.
Liverpool are missing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, however Arsenal’s Thomas Partey and Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez are already heading home, after their side were dumped out in the group stages.
There was controversy when Watford refused to release Nigerian hitman Emmanuel Dennis, citing a late call up.
But Shearer, who is the Premier League’s record goalscorer and has played against many iconic African players throughout his illustrious career, described the competition as fantastic and encouraged clubs to embrace it.
Speaking to NationalWorld’s sister site LondonWorld, the former England skipper said: “I think it’s fantastic and when you sign a player and you know at some stage you are going to lose them because of the African Cup of Nations, that means you’ve got a good player.
“Otherwise he would not be representing his country.
“We are fortunate to have the very best, when you look at Salah and Mane at Liverpool.
“I mean when you talk about Salah at Liverpool, he’s probably the best centre-forward in the world at the moment.
“I think that it is a great competition and I understand why many other players want to play in it.”
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira was among the few managers who threw their weight behind the competition, insisting that he understands what it means to African players to be part of the continent’s international competition.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright also hit out at the line of questioning from some sections of the British media, saying it was disrespectful to AFCON.
AFCON is a source of inspiration for British Africans
Some Brits with African heritage have drawn closer to the competition as a way of connecting with their roots.
Sam, 22, who was born in London to Nigerian parents, said the competition gave him a sense of belonging and appreciation for where his parents came from.
“The one thing that’s really important about African football is it’s a sign of representation. A sign of pride,” he told the BBC.
“I don’t think that’s based on the actual football itself.
“It’s more about just representing your country, putting on that shirt, whether you’re from Ghana, Nigeria or Ivory Coast.
“I’m Nigerian, I’m proud. And this is my country.”
The last AFCON was in the summer of 2019, meaning Africa’s best players, along with their supporters, have had an almost three year wait for the tournament.
The innovative fitness regime was created by the striker’s former physio at Newcastle Paul Ferris, chief executive of Speedflex, who has to retire from football at a young age due to knee injuries.