Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has insisted the Africa Cup of Nations be given more respect.

The former France International who has strong Senegalese roots is set to be without three players when the tourney kicks off January 9 in Cameroon.

The Ivorian squad to take on the continent had in it the name of their winger Wilfred Zaha while Cheikhou Kouyate was also included by Aliou Cisse in the Senegal squad released on Friday. Also much likely to be in Cameroon is Jordan Ayew as he has also been named on Ghana’s squad list although it is still provisional at the moment.

“I respect and understand the passion and importance to players to go and represent their country so I will never stop any player going to play the Africa cup of Nations,” the former Arsenal captain said.

Vieira further added that the competition should be respected as it is ‘as important as the European Championships’;

“I believe that that competition needs to be more respected – because this competition is as important as the European championships.”

The former Juventus and Inter Milan midfielder also challenged European journalists to take a larger interest in the event and appreciate what it means for Africa as a continent.

“It might be important for you guys to cover the Africa Cup of Nations a little bit more and to go to Africa and interview people to really understand what it means for every single one of them, When you are talking about Senegal I don’t think people would really understand if (Sadio) Mane or Cheikhou Kouyate didn’t represent their nation. If there was more coverage of that competition I think people will understand more how important it is for the African continent.”

In his playing days, Patrick Vieira netted 45 goals in 456 appearances for various clubsides, of which 29 goals in 279 games were for Arsenal, a side with which he was part of the 2003/04 ‘Invincible’ title winning squad.

He also donned the colours of the ‘Les Bleus’ of France a hundred and seven times (107) scoring six goals while playing at two World Cup finals winning one (1998) alongside the Euro 2000 and FIFA Confederations cup in 2001.