Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has insisted that the Africa Cup of Nations deserves more respect.
The Senegalese-born former France international is set to lose three of his players to the tournament when it kicks off in Cameroon on 9 January.
Cheikhou Kouyate was named in the Senegal squad on Friday, while Wilfried Zaha was included by Ivory Coast and Jordan Ayew is part of a provisional list announced by Ghana.
“I respect and understand the passion and the importance to players to go and represent their country so I will never stop any player going to play the Africa Cup of Nations,” the ex-Arsenal captain said.
“I believe that that competition needs to be more respected – because this competition is as important as the European Championships.”
He also challenged more European journalists to take a greater interest in the event and appreciate exactly what it means for the African continent.
“It might be important for you guys to cover the Africa Cup of Nations a little bit more and to go to Africa and interview people to really understand what it means for every single one of them,” he said.
“When you are talking about Senegal I don’t think people would really understand if (Sadio) Mane or Cheikou Kouyate didn’t represent their nation. If there was more coverage of that competition I think people will understand more how important it is for the African continent.”