Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong believes the Africa Cup of Nations should be “100% recognized.” It was “tough” for the Watford centre-back to witness Premier League players being asked if they would honor their national call-ups.
In his first big competition as captain, Troost-Ekong will lead Nigeria against seven-time winners and 2017 finalists Egypt on Tuesday.
“If it was the Euros or any other tournament, I don’t think there would be any kind of conversation like this,” he told Football Focus. “That would be ludicrous.”
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright, Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira, and Sebastien Bassong, a former Newcastle and Tottenham defender, have all asked for the competition to be treated with greater respect.
Troost-Ekong, 28, is one of five Premier League players in Cameroon who are representing Nigeria. Only four English Premier League teams have no players in the tournament: Leeds United, Newcastle United, Norwich City, and Tottenham Hotspur.
After a Fifa rule requiring teams to release players by 27 December was altered “in the spirit of goodwill and solidarity,” players were allowed to play for their clubs until 3 January.
“I can understand it to an extent because we are leaving during the season, which is probably different to other major tournaments that are happening. But people already knew that it was going to be in January, for a long time,” Troost-Ekong said.
Source: BBC Sport