Moroccan international and QPR midfielder Adel Taarabt revealed in December, before he was omitted from his country’s African Cup of Nations squad, that he had been asked by his manager Harry Redknapp not to participate in the continental competition.
There is no doubt that QPR could do with the midfielder during January and February now that Taarabt has gone some way to regaining the form he lost under Mark Hughes, especially when participation in the African Cup of Nations could lead to missing games in the league against West Ham, Manchester City, Norwich and Swansea.
However, the disrespect and naivety shown by Redknapp is disgraceful and shows the ugly side of the arrogance of the English game.
The continental tournament has a rich history stretching back further than our coveted European Championships. Created in 1957, the African Cup of Nations has been contested twenty seven times, taken to fans in eighteen different countries and won by fifteen different nations (compared to the European Championships’ fourteen hosts countries and ten winning nations).
The most recent tournament in 2012 was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (both first time hosts) and won by Zambia (first time winners), providing one of the most sensational sporting stories in a year already bloated with sporting heroics.
Zambia’s participation marked the nineteenth anniversary since eighteen members of the Zambian squad in 1993 were killed aboard an airplane crash on their way to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier, a memory the present team said it used as motivation going into the tournament.
Going into last years African Cup of Nations the country was ranked 73rd in the world but managed to top a group containing Equatorial Guinea, Libya and Senegal before defeating Sudan, Ghana and the Ivory Coast to take home their first continental trophy.
Their French manager Herve Renard, who was in charge at Cambridge United back in 2004, dedicated the win to those who had lost their lives in 1993 and to Zambian FA president Kalusha Bwalya, a former African Footballer of the Year, and the only squad member who wasn’t killed on the flight to Senegal because he had made his own way there.
Renard spoke after the victory to Ivory Coast, saying; “I know we’re not the best but we have a strength and force that animated our team and made us African champions. This is something enormous – something that appeared unrealisable before the competition began”.
I can understand Harry Redknapp’s predicament and see that he wants every available option open to him as he attempts to steer QPR clear of relegation from the Premier League, but his arrogance towards a continent which adores it's football tradition is embarrassing.
If he had got the England job that he so craved last year I doubt he would have taken so kindly to a manager brushing aside his country’s competitive obligations to it’s fans.
image: © wonker