Afcon 2021: ‘Of course I will go’ - Haller slams ‘disrespect’ towards tournament

Sebastien Haller Ajax Amsterdam Dortmund BVBGetty

Sebastien Haller has slammed the ‘disrespect’ being shown towards the Africa Cup of Nations after being asked if he will pick the Ivory Coast over Ajax in January.

The 33rd edition of Afcon, which was initially scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, is set to kick off on January 9 in Cameroon and will run until February 9.

The 27-year-old Haller is among a host of players who will leave their respective clubs in Europe to represent their countries in the competition.

While Ajax have two important competition matches on the program against FC Utrecht away and PSV Eindhoven, the former West Ham United striker was asked if he will stay and play in the two matches or he will leave to join the Elephants in Cameroon.

“This statement shows the disrespect for Africa. Would this ever have been presented to a European player towards a European Championship?” Haller asked in an extensive interview with De Telegraaf.

“This tournament was actually supposed to be held in the summer but was postponed due to corona. Of course, I will go to the Africa Cup of Nations to represent Ivory Coast. That is the highest honour.

“And of course, I would have liked to have taken the plane in between to be able to play against FC Utrecht and PSV, but that is simply impossible.

“This situation is very frustrating. I hate having to choose between my country and my club. That's really shit. I play with Ajax for the title and those two matches are very important because they influence the ranking.”

His comments come just a week after Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira highlighted the importance of the Afcon tournament, backing players, including Ghana’s Jordan Ayew and Senegal attacker Sadio Mane to play at the upcoming championship in Cameroon.

“I respect and I understand the passion and importance of those players to go and represent their country. I will never stop any players going to the Africa Cup of Nations,” Vieira, who was born in Senegal before relocating to France as a child, said.

“I believe that competition has to be more respected because this competition is as important as the European Championship.

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“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.”

Hosts Cameroon will kick off the tournament with a Group A game against Burkina Faso at Stade Omnisport Paul Biya, Olembe on January 9 while Haller’s Ivory Coast will start their campaign against Equatorial Guinea at Japoma Stadium on January 12.