Those who seek to undermine the African Nations Cup – and there are always a few managers who moan about the timing of it – should remember that this is a competition that has been in existence longer than the European Championships and has always been played at the start of the year.
It should also be pointed out to Premier League managers like Avram Grant, that they and their clubs knew the nationality of the African players in question when they signed them so there are no excuses for complaining when those players claim their right to represent their countries every other January.
The departure of, for instance, Didier Drogba is unfortunate for Chelsea but it is not as if they have not had plenty of warning. Drogba was from the Ivory Coast when he signed for Chelsea in 2004 and unlike the many changeable aspects of footballers' lives – hairstyles, cars, girlfriends – their nationality is the one thing that stays the same.
English football loves African footballers for their talent; unfortunately, it is not so keen to lose them for most of January when they do the important job of playing for their countries. That attitude is wrong.
In a game that is increasing packaged-up and commercialised for the convenience of the biggest club sides in the world, there is something liberating about famous footballers representing their countries for little more than pride in a nation as poor as Angola.
Next month's tournament will be an insight into some of the most exciting nations due to compete in the World Cup finals next summer. But if one of the big Premier League stars comes home injured, you can expect a whole lot of whingeing from his club.Reuse content