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29th Dec 2021

Sebastien Haller hits back at ‘disrespect’ shown to AFCON

Callum Boyle

‘I hate having to choose between my country and my club. That’s really shit.’

Ajax forward Sebastian Haller has hit back at comments made about the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and believes that people show the tournament ‘disrespect.’

The competition is set to begin on 9 January in Cameroon and will see the world’s best African players compete for the continent’s coveted prize, with many European clubs set to lose their star players when they link up with their national sides on 3 January.

In previous months, managers such as Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have been critical of the tournament taking place mid-season, with the German likely to be without key figures Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for the best part of a month.

It led to the Senegal boss, Aliou Cisse criticising the German’s comments – which he claimed were misinterpreted – that the AFCON is a ‘small tournament’ and Haller seems to side along with Cisee’s views.

When asked if he would prepare to stay with Ajax or link up with the Ivory Coast squad, the former West Ham forward made his feelings clear.

“This question shows the disrespect for Africa,” he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

“Would this question ever get asked to a European player ahead of the EUROs? Of course I am going to the Africa Cup [of Nations].

“This tournament was actually supposed to be held in the summer, but was postponed due to Covid.

“Of course I will go to the Africa Cup to represent Ivory Coast. That is the highest honour.”

The forward, who has been in exhilarating form at club level this season and is the top scorer in the Champions League, will miss crucial league games against FC Utrecht and PSV Eindhoven and the striker admitted he doesn’t enjoy having to pick between club and country.

“I hate having to choose between my country and my club,”  he said.

“That’s really shit. 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.”

Haller and the Ivory Coast begin their campaign on 12 January against Equatorial Guinea before games against Sierra Leone and tournament holders, Algeria.

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