Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has said he will never stop his players from representing their countries in the forthcoming African Cup of Nations.
The Frenchman noted that the competition is as important as the European Championship.
Some managers of top European clubs with African players have criticised the timing of AFCON and with the fourth wave of COVID-19 creating more fears.
Vieira will see three of his Palace top stars, Wilfried Zaha, Cheikhou Kouyate and Jordan Ayew leave for the competition as they join Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana respectively.
Despite their plans to go home, the former Arsenal skipper, who is a Senegalese-born, said he will never prevent the players from travelling to Cameroon.
“I respect and I understand the passion and importance of those players to go and represent their country,” Vieira said on Palace’s official website.
“I will never stop any players going to the Africa Cup of Nations. I believe that competition has to be more respected because this competition is as important as the European Championship.
“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.”