Watford and the Super Eagles of Nigeria‘s central defender, William Troost-Ekong have stressed that the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is at the same level as the FIFA World Cup, the Copa America, and the Euros.
Hence, the captain of Nigeria’s national team urged the world to respect the continental tournament as much as they respect other football tournaments.
Recall that since late last year, AFCON has been suffering a series of negative western media coverage. It got so bad that some European clubs became less interested in releasing players for the tournament.
One of the prominent arguments against the tournament has been that it is scheduled to take place in the middle of the league season across Europe (between January and February 2022). This fact has forced clubs to be without some of their prominent players in the most important point of the season.
Due to this, there have been a series of backlash against the tournament, hence, William Troost-Ekong has joined the likes of Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira and Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright to ask the western media to show more respect to the African prestigious football tournament.
In his argument, William Troost-Ekong who chose to represent Nigeria, his ancestral home, instead of the Netherlands, his place of birth, frowned at the fact that western media always ask African players whether they would leave their clubs for AFCON.
Troost-Ekong told Football Focus that if it was Euros, the media would not ask the players if they would represent their countries in the tournament.
The Nigerian defender said: “If it was the Euros or any other tournament, I don’t think there would be any kind of conversation like this. That would be ludicrous…
“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.
“Unfortunately, I think quite a lot has been taken away from the tournament and the excitement that should have been there because of those questions…
“There’s sometimes a misunderstanding of what kind of tournament it is,” he said.
“It’s on the same level as a World Cup or the Euros or Copa America. A lot of the exciting players in the Premier League are African. To see them all together defending their countries will be an exciting tournament, whatever people say.”
William Troost-Ekong and the Super Eagles of Nigeria will commence their campaign in the tournament on Tuesday, January 11 at 17:00 against the most successful team of AFCON, Egypt.
The Egypt national team has won the tournament a record seven times. While Nigeria are seeking their 4th AFCON trophy.
During Nigeria’s opener against Egypt, Troost-Ekong will be very busy trying to stop Liverpool forward, Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian talisman who has scored 23 goals for Liverpool so far this season is expected to be the game-changer.
“I hope he stays as far away from us and our goal as possible,” said Troost-Ekong. “This season he’s obviously been on fire and we all know how good he is, but at the same time I’m very confident in our team.”
Troost-Ekong has been playing for the Super Eagles of Nigeria since January 13, 2015. Since then, the 28-year-old defender has made 53 appearances for the team and has scored two international goals.