Napoli's Zambo Anguissa: Clubs 'have to respect' that AFCON is important for African players

Are Watford showing disrespect to AFCON? (1:11)

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Watford's stance on Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr playing in the Africa Cup of Nations. (1:11)

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa says it wasn't an easy decision to step away from Napoli's title charge midway through the Serie A season to join Cameroon's Africa Cup of Nations squad, but he has the full backing of his club during the continental showpiece.

The club-versus-country row has been one of the key talking points during the build-up to the 33rd edition of the AFCON, with some players -- including Liverpool's Joel Matip and Emmanuel Dennis of Watford -- opting out of the competition in order to help their club campaigns.

Despite being a key figure in a Napoli side at a critical juncture in their Serie A title bid, Zambo Anguissa, speaking after Cameroon's opening 2-1 AFCON victory over Burkina Faso, has revealed the club's support for his international ambitions.

"It's always delicate for a player to leave his team, but the club have to understand that the Africa Cup of Nations is an important thing when you're an African player, and they have to respect that as well," he told ESPN. "In my situation, the club didn't have a problem, even though they know that I'm an important component at the team."

Beyond the absent Matip, Cameroon have previously missed out on the services of both Andre Onana and Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting before their victorious campaign at the 2017 Nations Cup, with the pair preferring to remain with their clubs. Both of them are with the current squad.

Zambo Anguissa, currently on loan at Napoli from Fulham, has featured 14 times for the Partenopei so far this season, establishing himself as one of the most effective midfielders in the division as Luciano Spalletti's side mounted a strong start to the campaign. He featured in 10 consecutive league games without defeat for the club as they got off to a flying start, but only three wins in their last 10 league games has seen them fall off the pace.

"[Napoli] are thinking more about what the AFCON means for me, so today I know that everyone at my club are there and supporting me," he said. "At the same time, I'm still supporting them even though I'm over here.

"For the players who come [to the AFCON], or who don't come, everyone makes their choice and they have to live with this."

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Zambo Anguissa featured for 90 minutes on Sunday as an unconvincing Cameroon began their Nations Cup campaign with a win thanks to two Vincent Aboubakar penalties within five minutes at the end of the first half, which canceled out a Gustavo Sangare opener.

"It was very difficult," Zambo Anguissa said. "We knew it would be a hard game against a tough team and you know that these days, in Africa, it's going to be like this because there aren't any small teams anymore. What we have to take from this is the three points -- they will help us going forward.

"We'll keep working hard, and take things from this to help us improve. [Our] preparations haven't been easy, but we have a team that learns quickly, works hard, and loves playing together. Our 'fighting spirit' never abandons us, and we'll have to lean on this to win our next game."

Zambo Anguissa and Cameroon continue their AFCON campaign against Ethiopia on Thursday -- the same day as Napoli play Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia -- before concluding their group stage campaign against Cape Verde on Monday, the same evening the Partenopei face Bologna in the top flight.