By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) set to hold in January 2021 may be postponed as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) meet next week in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament is set for Cameroon from January 9 through February 6 but appears increasingly under threat as time begins to run out amid a tight schedule.
This is because qualification rounds are still not complete and due to predictions, national team football on the continent is not due to resume before October in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
CAF’s executive committee will meet in an online conference on Tuesday, June 30 to decide what to do, and also set out a possible process for completing this season’s two continental club competitions.
This follows FIFA’s decision on Thursday to cancel September’s window for national team matches in all regions, except Europe and South America. This has left CAF with fewer dates to try and complete the competition’s qualifying campaign and then finalise the field for the 24-team tournament.
There are still four rounds of qualifiers to play and although they could yet be scheduled for October and November, that would mean having to postpone the start of the group phase of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
There is also the inconvenience that hosting AFCON next January would place on domestic competition, with the 2020-2021 season in most of Africa’s major leagues set to start late as they seek to first complete current campaigns which have been suspended by the pandemic. Most African leagues are halted mid-season to make space for the Cup of Nations.
The African Champions League and African Confederation Cup were suspended at the semi-final stage and CAF will have to come up with a plan to finish the competitions with borders mostly shut, flights suspended and football stopped across the continent because of the pandemic.
CAF must also decide whether to cancel this year’s African Nations Championship (ANC), which was due to be played in Cameroon in April. It is the tournament hosted every two years for national teams made up of home-based players only.
There is also the decision that must be made on the African women’s championship, scheduled for November but with qualification also far from complete.
But in this case, a postponement looks an easy decision to make because CAF is yet to find a venue for the tournament after Congo withdrew as hosts in July 2019.
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