The president of Naples has indicated that he no longer wants to recruit African international players, refusing to pay the salaries of footballers who risk being absent during the African Cups of Nations.
During an interview for the Wall Street Italy, the president of the Napoli club, Aurelio De Laurentiis, threw a real bombshell. Certainly, said the leader of the Italian club, he likes Africans. But players from the continent will no longer be welcome in Naples. The reason ? The African Cup of Nations (CAN), which usually occurs in the middle of the season, which hinders the stability of the teams.
De Laurentiis knows what he is talking about: from Victor Osimhen, the Super Eagle, to Cameroonian André-Franck Zambo Anguissa, via Fennec Adam Ounas, Naples will lose several players during the next CAN which will take place in Ivory Coast.
But is this a reason to announce that he will no longer recruit African players? And, above all, doesn't the Neapolitan president's decision risk setting a precedent and encouraging other clubs to discriminate against African internationals?
❓⚽️ The president of the Naples football club, Aurelio De Laurentiis, announced during an interview that he no longer wanted to recruit African players as long as they participated in the CAN. Is there a risk of other clubs following in De Laurentiis' footsteps? pic.twitter.com/5rw3pAU67V
— RFI Calls News (@AppelsActu) August 5
“Don't talk to me about African footballers anymore. I won't take any more, as long as the African Cup of Nations is organized in the middle of the season. Unless they give up arguing. We find ourselves like idiots paying salaries to send them to play elsewhere, ”says the leader.
Already during the last CAN, the English club Watford had for a time blocked the participation of striker Ismaïla Sarr in the competition. The Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) then asked FIFA to intervene. Naples had also wanted to deprive the Nigerian selection of its striker Victor Osimhen and the Swiss club FC Basel had prevented Nasser Djiga from joining Burkina Faso.
However, the CAN is not a new competition: all European clubs know that continental competition will deprive them of some of their players. For the Ivorian Sébastien Haller, there is a real "lack of respect" on the part of the media when it comes to evoking the debate on whether or not to play the CAN for African players.
At the time, the Ivorian asked: “Would you ask this question to a European player before a Euro? Of course I'm going to play CAN. It is the greatest honor. And of course I would have liked to fly between the two to be able to play against Utrecht and PSV, but it is simply impossible”.
Should the CAN format be reviewed?
The exit of De Laurentiis caused many stirs. Long before him, many leaders were already denigrating the African competition. For the French Patrick Vieira, the CAN is not respected. Britain's Ian Wright asks a real question: "Is there a tournament more despised than the Africa Cup of Nations?" We played our Euro in ten countries in the middle of a pandemic and there are no problems. But Cameroon, a single country hosting a tournament, is a problem”. And the player to evoke a certain “racism”.
A close friend of the African Football Confederation, however, finds some extenuating circumstances for the president of Naples: “The African Cup of Nations is played every 2 years, while the Euro is played every 4 years. Perhaps the periodicity of this competition should be reviewed? Another argument: the CAN is rarely played in the summer, during the breaks. What to ask again if the calendar should not be reviewed… Especially since African players playing in Europe often have trouble asserting their rights to their employers. In 2019, the debate had been less bitter, the CAN being played in summer.
Still, the problem is likely to get worse, because of… FIFA. The boss of world football is indeed campaigning for a World Cup every two years. Enough to overload the international calendar.