The president of the Confederation of African Football, Issa Hayatou, yesterday slapped down criticism by players of the timing of the Africa Nations Cup, telling them to stop putting their own interest first.
Hayatou, addressing a pre-tournament CAF congress here, continued his firm line on the future of the tournament, whose timing has been criticised in recent months. Among those bemoaning the holding of the event in the middle of the European season, where top African players earn their living, have been the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Michael Essien and El Hadji Diouf.
All have left their clubs at a key moment of the season to play in the Nations Cup, which starts in Ghana tomorrow.
"The players who criticise the event should learn to put the interests of African football above their own," Hayatou said.
He again blamed climatic conditions in Africa as a reason for not switching the event to mid-year when club seasons are completed. He also said Africa would also continue to hold the event every two years.
But CAF did make a minor concession earlier this week when they announced that the 2010 Nations Cup would start 10 days earlier, running from 10 to 31 January in Angola. This will benefit clubs in countries where the leagues have a winter break.