Ian Wright accuses EPL clubs of being “tinged with racism” towards AFCON – Is he right?

The African Nations Cup starts this weekend so I think it would be a good time to thank the Arsenal legends Patrick Vieira and Ian Wright for trying to garner more respect towards the tournament.

Vieira, born in Senegal, has suggested that the British media go and visit the continent to learn what the tournament means to that part of the World.

Ian Wright has even accused some attitudes towards the event as “tinged with racism”, asking has there ever been greater disrespect towards a trophy like there has been towards the one Cameroon will be hosting?

This is in the wake of clubs privately and publicly putting pressure on their players not to represent their countries at the AFCON.

Jurgen Klopp had to defend describing the event as a ‘little tournament’, Watford have been accused of ‘baring fangs’ in their successful bid to stop Dennis being called up for Nigeria, Senegal is making similar accusations regarding Sarr. Sebastian Hallen questioned the Dutch Media if he was European would there be any doubt if he would pick his nation over Ajax.

It’s believed that several teams put pressure on FIFA not to send players to Cameroon with cases of COVID rising. As recently as the start of December the assumption was the whole event would be cancelled.

As I write this, warm up fixtures are in doubt due to how many squads are reporting positive COVID results.

Arsenal themselves might not mind 4 of their players travelling as 3 of them need game time, Aubameyang, Pepe and Elneny haven’t been starting.

UEFA were adamant that nothing would stop them changing their format for the Euros, even when common sense said it was safer to reduce the host cities.

Organisers wanted as many locations as possible to stage fixtures, even if it meant an increase in travel and stadiums not at maximum capacity.

With the World Cup in 2022, postponing the European Championship again was out of the question.

CAF have every right to be treated equal by the sport’s governing body.

There would be uproar if Harry Kane was pressured not to play for England in a major tournament, so why is it okay to expect Salah to do the same?

Winning honours with your country are deemed an honour when it’s a Ronaldo. Why not when it’s Mane?

Why can’t we simply respect it’s a moment of pride to represent your flag, and if that means missing a few weeks of your club season then it’s worth it.

Let’s stress that employers know the AFCON is every 2 years so have plenty of time to prepare for it.

If it’s that big an issue simply doesn’t sign African players?

So is Ian Wright correct to suggest that racism might be the reason behind the lack of respect towards the AFCON?

To agree with that, I would need to know what a person is thinking and I don’t have those powers.

It could simply more be a case of ignorance.

If you live in Europe, you will naturally care more about the Euros then another cup on the other side of the world, in which you don’t have an emotional attachment to any one team.

It doesn’t explain why coaches and owners think CAF can be pushed around and not taken as serious as other bodies.

I myself have experienced different reactions to celebrating Africa’s contribution to the sport.

I have previously written lists of best European or English Gunners which seemed acceptable.

Write about the greatest African players to play for Arsenal some readers will blush.

There’s a word for that.

That’s why it’s crucial to educate and celebrate football that goes on around the world.

That’s who the game belongs to …. the world!

Sky Sports broadcasting in the UK will help showcase the event which will help spread awareness.

Aubameyang captains Gabon, Elneny will represent Egypt, Pepe has been selected by the Ivory Coast and Partey has been called up by Ghana, so there will be interest for many Arsenal fans.

Is Ian Wright correct?

Is racism the reason towards the lack of respect towards AFCON?

Be Kind in The Comments


Watch Albert Stuivenberg’s FULL Post-match Press conference here….

Tags AFCON Ian Wright Vieira


  1. Its one of the major international tournaments, and its not every year. Its in January because of the weather conditions.

    All clubs should prepare for it in advance and stop scheming to not let players leave. I have no problems with it, its only a month.

  2. he’s 100% right it’s because is not a European competition that’s why i can also feel like some players don’t want to go

  3. It depends on the agreement signed by a club and an African player

    If there is a clause to limit or to stop the player from participating in AFCON, the player’s national football team must accept it. I believe it applies to South American players as well

    1. Do European players have to insist they can play for their country?

      I believe a clause llike that would be illegal whatever your nationality.

        1. @gai
          Regardless if it did clash with the Euros or not. Denying a player the ability to play for his national team is a disgrace by any measure…

          1. Depends on the contract, because the club and the player must be fully aware what they will get or have to do before signing any deal

            1. gotanidea, this is trash and uncalled for, Qatar 2022 will not be played at the regular time for world cup due to weather condition in Qatar, will European clubs realise their players for the tournament? Why is nobody advocating for it to be moved to the usual June/July so as not to disrupt the football season?

  4. I dont think its anything to do with racism whatsoever.

    Its more that AFCON happens right after the festive period during our regular season, which isnt all that ideal for squads now is it? then you add covid on top of that.

    We’re pretty lucky with who we lose to AFCON, only TP really as the rest are pretty much out of the picture

    1. Obviously I can’t speak for the Media, Club Managers & Officials or Mr Wright but I agree with Val, it is about timing, I understand it is why it is at that time of year but the weather conditions will be extreme at the next World Cup as well

      For myself as an Arsenal fan it is the potential impact of losing players whilst matches are still on in the middle of the season and they will be away from the Clubs for a few weeks rather than a few days with no domestic fixtures like when they represent their countries (inc African & South American nations) at other times during the season and obviously the Euros were during the break so no comparison there really but I have to say that I am still a bit nervous because of fatigue, injury etc to our players during those events and World Cup tournaments

      For AFCON, in addition to injury risk, different training methods and now of course COVID considerations it happens in the transfer window so adds to the many complications of that, maybe we should scrub that in AFCON years or move it to February, I don’t know

      It matters little to me that Auba is off form and temporarily banished at Club level or that Pepe and Elneny haven’t been regular starters recently or that Partey just had his best game for us we will miss all of our African Internationals, particularly this season because of players dropping out of training and games because of positive COVID tests, we need all squad players available right now

      By the way, the article suggests that we know it’s coming so if you don’t like it don’t sign African players, now if we did that maybe, just maybe that would be “tinged with racism”

    2. Typical victim mentality….don’t like something so let’s call it racist. Fcking typical SJW crybabies! Wrighty trying to find racism now in something that has nothing to do with race.

      Nothing to do with racism, people equally say that European friendlies are stupid and don’t want their players to go to those either. Can add Europa Conference League to the list of tournaments people generally think are a waste of time and a lot of people said the same about the nations cup.

      1. So of we’re to follow your thinking, European friendlies are as “important” to clubs ac AFCON right? Please be sure of your comments before posting

        1. Thanks for this reply, you are here comparing the only major tournament in Africa to European friendlies. How smart!

          1. @Diadem Are you saying the only major tournament in Africa is the AFCON? Please educate yourself, there are a lot more important comps in Africa than just that boy.

        2. Let me explain it to you like children then if it’s too difficult to understand:

          -Wright is hinting that negative attitudes towards the comp are to do with race
          -I listed a few comps that aren’t in Africa that fans also have bad attitudes towards and do not like

          In other words, the dislike for the tournament itself has nothing to do with race. I did not compare the relative importance of the competitions at any time, merely attitudes towards them.

          If you are too stupid to comprehend that point maybe you should be checking your comments before posting.

          1. Continue contradicting and shooting yourself in the foot. As Diadem rightly said, AFCON is the only major tournament in Africa which can concern European clubs. Mentioning AFCON and European friendlies in one sentence as the same? Really? Only you can achieve such feat of brilliance and I marvel at your wisdom.Like I said earlier, be sure of your comments before posting

    3. Just as Qatar 2022 will happen during the season and disrupt the football calendar but no one is advocating for it to be shifted and European clubs will gladly release their players for the tournament. I will agree with all this submissions supporting non release of players if EPL clubs do not release their players in November for world cup.

  5. Football belongs to the World now so England should be awarded a world cup every 20 years or so in exchange. That’s the only f****** chance they have of getting another. European referees wont let Kane get away with leg breaking tackles and cheating the way he does in the UK.

  6. Nothing to do with racism. It’s about the fact that it’s in the middle of the season. If the euros was in the middle of the season clubs would be equally frustrated.

    1. Agreed, this is unique issue this year. In prior years when no interference with schedule nobody complained. Comparing Euros to AFCON isn’t realistic based on schedule.
      Half of me wants Senegal to go all the way and half wants them to be out at end of group stage!

  7. Gotanidea I don’t think there will ever be a clause to stop players from participating for their countries.
    It’s every players honour to be called up.. Watford don’t want to let go of Dennis and Sarr because they’re prioritising their own interests over the happiness of the players.
    Dennis made a tweet suggesting he was happy to be called but he couldn’t cause Watford didn’t allow it.
    Viera and Wright are both spot on.
    These football clubs and fans simply don’t rate the AFCON.
    Why hasn’t Arteta or anyone at Arsenal moaned about it despite having four players participating.
    Three of which we know as big players at the club.
    We’ve made sure we can cope without these players.
    The AFCON deserves more respect than it gets IMHO

    1. Watford can only stop Dennis and Sarr legally. If Watford intimidated the players or their national football teams, those players and their entourages could sue the club

  8. I agree with both Viera and Wrighty but Samuel Eto’o gave an interview to the athletic few days ago,in which he brought up some good points,like not only blaming other countries but Africa too,I copied it for those who are interested in reading in.
    Samuel Eto’o pauses for a moment, sits back properly in the brown leather chair in the small room we are in and, for the first time in our conversation, speaks with real passion.

    “Africans have to know how to come together for the continent’s development,” he says.

    “Others will never do it for us. It is really important that we know this. You can see what happens in the world. When the world comes to do business in Africa, they are happy. When Africa comes to Europe (for help), we have problems.

    “So to improve things, you need more than money, you have to have ideas and a vision.”

    Eto’o is talking about the development of African football, about the fact there have only been two World Cup quarter-finalists (Senegal in 2002, Ghana eight years later) since Cameroon got that far in 1990 and that only once (in 2014) has more than one African team got out of the group stage. The last tournament, in 2018, saw all five African representatives eliminated at that stage with just three victories from their nine combined games. This year’s five representatives will be decided in March, with Eto’o’s Cameroon among the 10 remaining sides whose fates now hang on two-leg play-offs.

    This all feels a long way from Pele’s famous prediction that an African team would win the World Cup before the year 2000, made following Cameroon’s brilliant run to the quarter-finals of Italia 90.

    But with some of the world’s best players (Mohamed Salah, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy, Andre Onana, Riyad Mahrez and more) from Africa and on display at this month’s AFCON, why are expectations low ahead of the 2022 World Cup? Eto’o thinks there is a crippling lack of proper coaching and training. Interestingly, of the 24 coaches at the upcoming AFCON, 10 are foreign. In comparison, only four of the 24 coaches at last summer’s European Championship were not from the country they were managing.

    Samuel Eto’o celebrates winning the Champions League with Inter Milan in 2010 (Photo: Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
    “I take Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as examples,” says Eto’o, who flits between French, Spanish and English during the interview. “Three of the Premier League’s main goalscorers come from Africa.

    “I am convinced that us Africans are significant in so many things but we don’t know how to come together. It has to be said that everyone has their opinion, that’s certain, and that will always be the case, but everyone’s interests must come first, ahead of the individual’s. That’s how other continents develop. We have to know how to do it here.

    “Africans have a lot of talent, Europeans a bit less. But the Europeans have understood something: education. Education is the magic of every success.

    “In Africa, we don’t know how to educate ourselves, and to educate you have to have patience. What you educate today will bear fruit in 10 years’ time. We don’t have that patience.

    “On the other hand, in Europe people don’t stop educating themselves. You go and see someone in France and they say, ‘I’m going to do a course on this’. But why does he do that when he has a job? Because the people have understood that to improve you have to educate yourself. And that’s what we Africans have to do — educate Africans and not stop. And then we will have the chance to win the World Cup.

    “Take one example. Today, when Africa plays in the youth categories, we are a lot stronger because naturally, physically, we are gifted with other things. But seeing that the Europeans and the rest of the world continue, for them it’s an educational programme, when they turn 18 they become a lot stronger, because they have educated themselves.

    “As the years go on, what we have naturally diminishes.”

    His point about success at younger ages stacks up. Ghana have won the Under-20 World Cup and finished as its runners-up twice, while Nigeria have reached two finals. Mali, Senegal, Morocco and Egypt have all reached semi-finals. That competition’s Golden Ball has been won by African players three times.

    Eto’o is hopeful, though. He points to all the Champions League titles won by African players — including the three he claimed with Barcelona (two) and Inter Milan — and says that the poverty many African players come from means dreaming of what seems impossible is par for the course.

    “I would really have that hope that one of the countries will be a semi-finalist, and why not a finalist and see them win the World Cup?” he says.

    “Some people mock that and say it’s impossible. I’ll tell you what is impossible. What is impossible is to not have a life, to not exist and from one day to the next to exist.

    “My life was… I wasn’t existing because I didn’t have a tomorrow. I couldn’t see what I could become tomorrow. I didn’t know how I was going to eat tomorrow. I didn’t know if one day I could have a family, have children.

    “But, thanks to talent that God has given me, I was able to make history. I could change what I thought was impossible, even inaccessible for millions of Africans. I could change that.

    “Winning a World Cup is not impossible. I won I don’t know how many Champions Leagues, all while being considered one of the best players of that generation.

    “However, a couple of years before, I didn’t exist because I didn’t know what I was going to become because I didn’t know I was going to become someone. And that is sometimes what is impossible in life but I made it possible and others have done it.

    “If others have done it, if I could do it, I don’t see why an African country will not win a World Cup. It’s even one of the easiest things to do. It’s just a couple of football matches. Why would that be impossible? Despite all the difficulties that nations can go through during games, it’s not impossible.”

    Eto’o was a star for Cameroon and is now president of its football association (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)
    Eto’o’s dreams were inspired by that 1990 Cameroon side containing Roger Milla.

    For younger readers, that team stunned the world by beating holders Argentina 1-0 in their opening game at the 1990 World Cup, topping Group B and then knocking out Colombia before taking England to extra time in the quarter-finals. Milla, the striker, became a household name after four goals at the age of 38, his corner-flag dancing arguably pioneering the imaginative goal celebrations we now see every week.

    “What the performances of Roger Milla brought to Africa was to create many dreams. There isn’t a price to dream. The dream is so expensive in Africa that people often don’t have the chance to dream,” says Eto’o.

    “What Milla did, he brought a dream to Africa in a free way where people like me said, ‘I can become a footballer. I can make history.’ When you see all the players who have come out after, all stemming from Roger Milla’s performances, he brought that, it has never been a wasted opportunity.

    “Through the dream that Milla brought to this continent, there have been children like Samuel Eto’o who tried to take this dream a lot further, who tried to democratise this dream, and today I am rather happy because we have many players everywhere who play in significant clubs. It’s no longer a dream. They are the centrepieces.”

    Eto’o, who does this interview as part of his appearance at Web Summit, recently decided words are not enough, putting himself forward to run for president of the Cameroon Football Association (FECAFOOT) — an election that he won. It puts him in a very prominent position in African football just before his country hosts AFCON over the next month. With it comes further scrutiny, and last week the Spanish tax office said he owes almost $1 million to them in unpaid tax.

    Eto’o is also an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup this year and played in Doha near the end of his career. This inevitably raises questions and concerns, with him choosing to promote a country with a very poor human rights record, especially regarding LGBT+ people, women and workers. When asked about this, Eto’o says: “Football is for everyone, that is what I believe. But I would also ask people to come and see the country and what it’s like before passing judgement.”

    The decision to go into politics comes following the success of his foundation but he now wants the chance to influence bigger change.

    “First, you have to find the space to play in Cameroon. There aren’t football stadiums like in Europe. We played in the street, we improvised, and we were fine like that. I think that’s why Africa is lacking, because buildings now occupy those spaces — youngsters can’t express themselves naturally.

    Eto’o talking at Web Summit in November (Photo: Bruno de Carvalho/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
    “We have to construct a lot of stadiums close by, so that the youngsters can play and they don’t stop playing. For that reason, I’ve put myself in this election to try and change these things.

    “It’s going to go beyond simple access to a pair of boots and a ball. I think we have to look from much further away. We have understood that our continent is very, very behind. We mustn’t think of ‘normal’ things. We have to think about things which are inaccessible, like the rest of the world, because if we want to catch up, we can’t just think about a pair of boots or a good ball.

    “We don’t have many visionary leaders and that is the truth. We have to allow all the children who will watch AFCON in Cameroon to be better educated. To have the possibilities to always do better.”

    We will see if Eto’o gets his chance to deliver that.

    (Photo: Bruno de Carvalho/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images))

  9. There’s a lot going on here and unfortunately racism, or at the very least colonial attitudes, probably underlines some of the negativity (as it does in most walks of life). But not all of it.

    If the Euros (or any regional cup tournament for that matter) was held every two years in the middle of the PL, I think there would be a backlash. Many (most?l supporters are more passionate about their club then their country.

    This tournament also has the shadow of Covid hanging over it so that must contribute to the clubs’ lack of enthusiasm (although doesn’t excuse their behaviour as they signed players knowing full well AFCON was part of the deal). At least one other sport has tried and failed to host an international tournament over the holidays (ice hockey juniors). I hope AFCON is more successful but the logistics are mind-boggling given the small window to get all the games in (how will postponement be handled for instance)

    At any rate, looks like BBC is carrying a lot of the games so looking forward to seeing how the Arsenal lads get on (and praying that TP doesn’t pick up an injury)

  10. It’s so sad to see what these clubs are doing… I’m very disappointed in watford and I hope they get relegated. Dennis won’t save them.

    Also I think CAF really needs to reschedule the Afcon.. Needs to be fixed off season to avoid all these drama..

    If Arsenal were top of the league and having to loose important players like TP and Auba, I’m sure many here will grumble and frown at the timing of the Afcon.

  11. So we’re all racist then now are we?I remember Arsenal players saying George Graham used to tell him , Tony you’re not feeling well , you can’t play for England and this happened often even Ferguson used to do it all the time.So no maybe it’s because the AFCON happens exactly during the middle of the season , which hampers individual teams.Everyone is also against the Winter World Cup in???Is it because we’re racist or is it because its happening during the winter months.

  12. Its all to do with timing and absolutely nothing to do with racism. It just happens to come right in the middle of a regular season and after the xmas schedule. I personally think no international football should be played at all in a regular season. TIMING NOT RACISM.

  13. I do think the timing is not good for European clubs but they don’t have to be disrespectful when talking about it. They are campaigning to stop players going to AFCON because they need them! They are important players to their clubs. If they were racists those players wouldn’t have been given such importance in the first place.

    My respect for Klopp has just gone down to zero. Why call it a little tournament? That is disrespect to all Africans because it is their biggest tournament.

    Racism? No! Disrespectful comments? Yes!

  14. Whether Racist or not.. The question here is how much does this so called players actually wants to participate with their National sides?

    In as much as club coaches or the club itself tries, the players holds the key whether they want to go or not.. Some players in Africa are very celebrated in their countries, most of them even bring sponsorship deals to the tournament itself… So it’s somehow impossible to stop most players from competing..

  15. I don’t think the lack of enthusiasm is racist. Agree with those who think timing is at fault as it is mid way through ours and all European clubs’ season.

    With European club football at the forefront of the most world wide support of the game and the financial rewards for success so vast I can understand the difficulties posed by this tournament taking place mid way through the season. I’m not condoning any idea that the competition isn’t important or undeserving but that finances probably come into it

    Maybe if AFCON took place every 4 years like the Euros and World Cup then there may well be less frustration from football managers.

  16. Largely agree but Klopp’s comments were ill-judged and he (or the Liverpool PR Team) was right to try and walk them back.

  17. Speaking entirely personally and being as implacably anti racism as any human can be, I still do NOT believe the AFCON is affected because of racist attitudes – though a caveat must be made that says a small degree of racism will always exist among some few who administer this comp.

    The MAIN problem the AFCOM suffers from is that it is played DURING the Prem football season and that applies throughout EUROPE.

    I do not think skin colour comes into the thinking of the vast majority of people who wish this was played in the summer recess, as the WC and Euros are.

    Timing(being during the football season and not in the summer) is the PRIME reason for some hesitancy and antipathy from many clubs towards it. It actively interferes with the smooth running of European leagues and is made worse still during Covid.

    Not racism at all, save for the caveat I make. To that extent, I believe Wrighty is mistaken and racism is NOT the PRIME reason for the unwillingness of some to let players go.

    I would also make the important point that to cry wolf – meaning to cry “racism” where it is not present – hinders rather than helps those who work tirelessly to help eradicate the evil of racism from our planet. This is an important point and should not be ignored.

    1. I thought crying wolf too John and it is a very very very important point you have made there. To cry racism where it is not there not only hinders the efforts to eradicate it also gives justification to true racist people.

      We have come a long way from when players were not allowed to participate due to their skin colour to some of them holding legendary status and being adored by millions of fans worldwide, Wright and Vieira being good example themselves.

      We still have a long way to go but this crying wolf will only take us backwards.

      1. HH, So good to see a fellow Gooner who can see the damage to our cause that crying wolf does! I see this in many situations in life where false accusations set back the very causes they are, albeit well intentioned, trying to help.

        Not only in racism but in many other matters too where bigotry, sexism ageism and many other “ismns” too are rife.

        Insufficient thought by those who may mean well but do not use their brains fully, can easily be done to the noble causes they intend to help but, in fact, sometimes hinder.

        Good intentions ALONE, do not work the wonders that intelligent thought ALLIED TO good intentions, DO.

        1. I laugh when I keep hearing timing timing timing as the reason and I ask you all should an African tournament be scheduled based on a European calendar or rather an African calendar. Please let stop this disrespect and colonial mentality. An African tournament will always be scheduled based on African timing and calendar and not that of any other continent.

          Whoever signed an African player knew at some point there will be the AFCON so if you can’t deal with losing them then stop signing them. Rescheduling the AFCON will amount to adhering to colonial dictatorship which was resisted the last time a reschedule was mentioned.

  18. Education is key here, many comments here are suggesting that the timing of the AFCON is wrong. This is not the first time this tournament will be held at this period. The timing of this tournament was determined far back since inception because of the whether condition in Africa. Clubs disrespecting this tournament is not the way to go. I personally would have love the tournament to be held in June/July and also every 4 years but the developing nature and whether condition of the continent work against these due to the underdevelopment of sports facilities in the continent.

    The issue of racism is due to the perception in the comments of some football personalities

    1. The timing of the tournament is not wrong in itself but wrong to European clubs and understandably so. I agree with those who have said clubs should be prepared to cope without their best African players.

  19. jon fox is on the money!
    It’s all about club interests. Let’s be honest, Europe is the heart of football worldwide and where the most money is. In our own Premiership we can see the impact AFCON can have. Example, who wants to play Liverpool without Sane and Salah in the line-up? So you can see why clubs are not too happy as ultimately this can impact on championships, relegations and finances. This is why most major competitions revolve around Europe’s schedule, like Copa America and CONCACAF.
    Another point is that AFCOM doesn’t have a significant interest to Europeans. Leagues are still ongoing so to many it can be viewed as a distraction.

  20. I believe it is FIFA who is the problem.

    If they made the AFCON tournament the same as the Euros, or the Nations League or the World cup and declared a mandatory break in all Club matches, there would be no problem.

    Would that choice eventually lead to no time in the schedule for club matches

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