Football legend, Jay Jay Okocha who played for Paris Saint German, Frankfurt, Fenerbahçe and the likes have slammed clubs in Europe for the refusal to release players to represent their countries in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). He said the decision is “criminal” and also accused them of discrimination.

“The AFCON has always been in January, and it is criminal for these European clubs to stop African players from being part of the competition,” the football maestro said. He added that, “these same clubs and coaches won’t stop their players from taking part in European competitions. They even cheer their players during EURO championship.”

Okocha who also works as a member of Nigeria’s Super Eagles Technical Support Group spoke to journalists yesterday in Lagos during a ceremony organised by BetKing. According to him, the decision by the clubs is unfair and must be dealt with. His comment resonates with the likes of Samuel Eto’o, and Crystal Palace manager, Patrick Vieira who hold similar view.

Vieira said: “Maybe journalists [in Europe] should go to Africa and cover it and then they will understand what it means to the people of Africa. I believe that competition has to be more respected because this competition is as important as the European championship.”

“I respect the passion of the African Cup of Nations and will never stop any player going. I believe there should be more respect towards it,” he said, adding that, “with Senegal, I don’t think people understand [Sadio] Mane or Cheikhou Kouyate not representing their nation. If there was more coverage people will understand how important it is for the African continent.”

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