October 30 – FIFA’s decision to expand the Club World Cup and play it in June 2021 has been attacked by Togo’s veteran French coach Claude le Roy who says it will “kill” the Africa Cup of Nations.
In a savage denunciation of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s pet project, Le Roy says the tournament’s new timing and format will pose huge problems for Africa’s showpiece event which Cameroon is due to host in June and July the same year.
Le Roy says AFCON, which was itself switched to June-July for the first time this year from its traditional mid-winter European slot in order to stave off club-versus-country friction, will effectively be destroyed by the new-look 24-team Club World Cup, the current version of which has long taken place in December.
Club sides across the globe were previously reluctant to let their players go to the African Nations Cup but a solution was found by holding it in summer.
But holding the Club World Cup during the same time frame, says Le Roy – who has coached at a record nine AFCON tournaments – will seriously damage the continental competition.
“It’s terrible for the projection of this beautiful competition – the Nations Cup,” he told the BBC.
“FIFA’s decision that June is a good time to host the Club World Cup means they are killing the Nations Cup.”
It has reportedly been mooted that the AFCON could be moved to July but Le Roy believes that could be even worse.
“If you move the Nations Cup to July, it’s worse than before (January-February) for the clubs,” he said.
“The players will miss the pre-season preparations with their clubs and this part of the season is the most important for the players because of the new season. If we transfer a little bit later in July, not one player will be coming back for the pre-season preparations and they will rest for 1-2 weeks and begin the season later than the whole players.”
FIFA’s role in regional geo-politics has also been questioned by Le Roy who has led Congo, DR Congo, Ghana, and Senegal as well as Togo.
Infantino was helped into power by African votes but Le Roy says the new Club World Cup does nothing to pay Africa back for its support, criticising the gap “between the speeches of Infantino explaining that FIFA is here to help Africa and the reality off the field.”
In August, FIFA sent its Secretary General, Senegal’s Fatma Samoura, on a six-month mandate to improve the governance of the Confederation of African Football and resolve a management crisis under CAF leader Ahmad Ahmad.
But Le Roy charged: “Since Africa is under the supervision of FIFA, do you think that Africa can have a real impact in decisions of world football?”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org