Watch the full interview with William Troost-Ekong on 8 January at 12:00 GMT on BBC One, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website (UK only)Dates: 9 January – 6 February Venue: Cameroon Coverage: Ten games shown live on BBC, plus news, round-ups, reports and live text coverage on BBC Sport website
The Africa Cup of Nations should “100% be more respected”, says Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong.
The Watford centre-back said seeing Premier League players being asked if they would honour their national call-ups had been “difficult”.
Troost-Ekong is set to lead Nigeria out against seven-time champions and 2017 finalists Egypt on Tuesday in his first major tournament as captain.
“If it was the Euros or any other tournament, I don’t think there would be any kind of conversation like this,” he told Football Focus. “That would be ludicrous.”
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright, Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira and former Newcastle and Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong have also called for the tournament to be given more respect.
Troost-Ekong, 28, is one of five Premier League players representing Nigeria in Cameroon.
Only four English top-flight teams – Leeds United, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Tottenham – have no players at the tournament.
Players were allowed to play for their clubs until 3 January, after a Fifa rule stating clubs must release them by 27 December was changed “in the spirit of goodwill and solidarity”.
“I can understand it to an extent because we are leaving during the season, which is probably different to other major tournaments that are happening. But people already knew that it was going to be in January, for a long time,” Troost-Ekong said.
“Unfortunately, I think quite a lot has been taken away from the tournament and the excitement that should have been there because of those questions.”
Troost-Ekong, who has been at Watford since September 2020, said he hoped the Africa Cup of Nations would get the coverage it deserves this year and shed light on the quality of the tournament.
“There’s sometimes a misunderstanding of what kind of tournament it is,” he said.
“It’s on the same level as a World Cup or the Euros or Copa America. A lot of the…