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2021 Africa Cup Of Nations Set To Be Postponed

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is widely believed on the verge of postponing 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) because of the deepening coronavirus crisis.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is widely believed on the verge of postponing 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) because of the deepening coronavirus crisis.

The governing body is still considering a couple of other options, one being going ahead with the scheduled tournament but with 16 teams, or proceeding after completing the line-up by moving the dates to August/September.

According to the close sources in Cairo, there is a belief that it wishes to use the early part of this summer to complete an expected backlog of the third and fourth qualifiers.

A month ago, CAF released a statement saying it had postponed the qualifiers in order to protect the health and safety of stakeholders including players, sponsors, match officials and broadcasters.

The games were initially fixed to take place between March 25 and March 31 across various countries on the continent.

CAF is expected to call an emergency meeting in June for all African football stakeholders where they are expected to vote on postponing the AFCON tournament for a year in the hope of freeing up space in a packed calendar to avoid having to call a halt African Nations Championship (CHAN) which was earlier this year postponed indefinitely.

The scale of the problem the African football is facing will probably be even larger by then but, as things stand, leagues across the continent have been placed on hold.

Africa Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals also remain under suspension indefinitely. The first leg of inter-club competitions had been scheduled for the weekend of May 1-3 while return fixtures were pencilled for May 8-10.

And as the continental calendar continues to be turned upside down, most football pundits say that any postponement of the continental football showpiece would cause major problems for an awful lot of people, with European based players potentially high on the list of those adversely affected as they will likely miss it due to club commitments.

Already several African footballers have proposed other solutions. Africa Cup of Nations winner Adlene Guedioura has proposed that the tournament, which is set to be held in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, should be cancelled. This is because most of the Europe-based players will have to leave their clubs in the middle of what is likely to be an already delayed and congested season due to the current suspension of football.

“I know that Africa Cup of Nations is important and it’s good for the countries to organize it but this one in 2021, I think it should be cancelled,” Guedioura told BBC World Service.

“First they said it was in summer, then in winter, now we have the coronavirus which makes it more difficult to complete the qualification games.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the tournament is cancelled, to be honest. It’s something they need to discuss. To organize this Cup of Nations will be very tough.”

FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani earlier this week emerged with an idea of a season in a year (a decision that will affect the tournament) stating that it’s a matter which has “possibility to be discussed”

“We had already started thinking about how to set up a new timetable from 2024. Now, with this crisis, we need immediate answers. It is possible to think about how to reform football, not only in Europe but around the world, to improve things in terms of dates. It is a discussion to be had, especially with the confederations and the federations,” Montagliani told Italy’s Radio Sportiva.

“We have the opportunity because the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be played in November/December and then it can be an idea. Here in America, it is already contested according to the calendar of the calendar year. Maybe it is a solution for Europe or Africa. This is an opportunity to be discussed at the national and continental level. It’s not an idea to rule out, it’s a solution for the next two years and the World Cup in winter,” Montagliani added.

Several football competitions including major European leagues, Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying fixtures in Asia and South America have also been suspended due to the spread of the pandemic.

In the case of Africa Cup of Nations postponement, the choice of the date would be rather towards the beginning of the year 2022 rather than in the summer of 2021.

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