Former Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o says it is the duty of Africans to defend the scheduling of the Africa Cup of Nations.
The 2021 tournament was held in Cameroon in January and February this year, in the middle of the European season, to avoid the rainy season in the Central African nation.
The timing of the Nations Cup has led to repeated disputes with clubs who have been forced to release players, and the issue will persist after the 2023 finals in Ivory Coast were moved to early 2024 because of weather concerns.
Napoli owner and president Aurelio de Laurentiis said the Italian club would avoid signing any more Africans unless they agree not to play in the biennial tournament – with Senegal coach Aliou Cisse hitting back that international football should never play second fiddle to club commitments.
Eto’o, who had spells at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan and won the Nations Cup twice with the Indomitable Lions, has backed Cisse’s stance.
“We are Africans – nobody else can defend our continent better than ourselves,” Eto’o, who is now president of Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot), told BBC Sport Africa.
“Before the Nations Cup in Cameroon, I said that it’s important to play in January-February, something that obviously didn’t please some other people.
“But this is a fact in Africa. We have the rainy season in June, July, August, even early September in our continent. It’s just a matter of getting on the same page with others and explaining things.”
“I am rather happy to see children of this continent being aware that nobody else will defend our continent for us.”
However, Eto’o says that staging this year’s World Cup in the middle of the European season shows that concessions can be made by clubs.
Players must be released for the finals in Qatar on 14 November, with the first match six days later and the final on 18 December.
England’s Premier League will have its last pre-World Cup fixtures on the weekend of 12-13 November, and then resume on 26 December.
“We can notice for the first time in history that the World Cup will be played in November and December,” Eto’o, 41, said.
“It’s possible to make it happen.”