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Former England international Steven Caulker wants more recognition for AFCON

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Former England international Steven Caulker is representing his grandfather's country, Sierra leone, in the Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Cameroon.

Sierra Leone is back in the competition after an absence that lasted for 26 years.

The team aims to go beyond the group stages.

Defender Steven Caulker embraced the opportunity to participate. 

"Sierra Leone kindly offered me the opportunity to come and play in this tournament I represent Sierra Leone, where my granddad was from. I never gave up when times are difficult, and I believe Sierra Leone is very much the same. So I think it's a good fit and so far, so good. I love being here, love being a part of it" said the defender.

In his professional career in England, Steven Caulker played for teams like Tottenham, QPR and Cardiff. As an international Caulker also played for a number of Turkish teams including Fenerbahce.

He would like to see more recognition for AFCON but, in his view, racism remains a challenge.

"What it is is a form of racism, the way I look is that clubs want their best players available all the time. If you look at the heroes in the World Cup, generally speaking, they're outside of club competition so the club seems to be a little bit more relaxed about it when we've AFCON because it's in January and it's a busy time in Europe, I feel clubs obviously want to keep holding of their players. But I would certainly say there has been a bit of disrespect shown", claims Caulker. 

Outside football, the international player is also involved in a number of charity projects including building schools in Sierra Leone. For the defender, the most important thing is to leave a legacy and inspire future generations.

"For me,it's the most important part for me what legacy can I leave, building schools in Sierra Leone, helping charity projects around the world. For me is actually one of the most selfish things I can do because I feel great when doing it. It's great to see the reaction of the children when I'm presenting them with football. It's what makes me happy and I hope to continue to build many more in the future".

Steven Caulker is currently on loan to Turkish side Gaziantep.

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