By James Westwood
Africa’s prestigious international competition may have to be pushed back, but what is the main reason behind the potential postponement?
The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is one of international football’s major continental tournaments.
The latest edition of the 24-team event is due to get under way in January 2022, with Algeria set to defend the trophy that they won in 2019. However, fresh doubts have been raised over whether the latest edition of AFCON will go ahead.
So will AFCON 2021 be cancelled and why is the competition in danger of delay? GOAL brings you everything we know so far.
Will AFCON 2021 be cancelled?
There has not yet been any formal announcement regarding the possible cancellation of the tournament.
However, AFCON organisers could be forced into altering their plans due to safety and logistical concerns.
RMC Sport report that there is “uncertainty” surrounding the tournament and that the CAF could cancel the event.
Talk of a cancellation has been dismissed by CAF’s director of communications Alex Siewe, who told the BBC: “We can’t keep spending time dealing with rumours.”
Why is AFCON 2021 at risk?
It has been reported that AFCON is in danger of being called off due to the rise in Omicron Covid-19 variant cases.
The tournament was already pushed back from its original summer start date due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has been suggested that another postponement – or cancellation – is now imminent.
Around 40 players from the Premier League are slated to appear in the African competition, and concerns have been raised over how much of an impact there will be on the club season, if they take part in the tournament.
Will players be released?
The European Club Association (ECA) has released a letter to FIFA threatening to withhold players from the tournament if a suitable plan for medical and operational protocol is not presented.
The ECA, which represents leading clubs across Europe, has implored AFCON to respect the five-day quarantine rule that FIFA has imposed on players returning from international duty.
“With regards to applicable protocols, as far as we are aware, CAF (the Confederation of African football) has not yet made available a suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament, in the absence of which clubs will not be able to release players for the tournament,” the ECA told FIFA in a letter obtained by AFP.
When & where is AFCON 2021 due to take place?
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will officially begin on January 9 in Cameroon.
The Cameroon FA have confirmed that the 2021 AFCON will take place between January 9 and February 6
Not ideal for clubs with African players.
The host nation will take on Burkina Faso in the opening game in Yaounde, with the action then scheduled to run all the way through to the final in the capital city on February 6.
When could AFCON 2021 be rescheduled for?
It is not yet known when AFCON could be rescheduled for, if it is postponed again.
With the 2022 World Cup not taking place until November in Qatar, there is potentially a gap for AFCON in summer 2022, but the possibility of player burnout would also have to be taken into consideration after the conclusion of the club season.
Could AFCON 2021 hosts be changed?
There have previously been fears that Cameroon would be stripped of hosting duties after problems with their preparations.
Former technical director of the Confederation of African Football, Abdel Moneim Shatta, even suggested the event could be moved to Qatar at the start of December.
CAF general secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba has since joined the team in Cameroon to ensure that everything is in place for January 9, but the latest surge in Omicron cases could once again lead to a rethink.