By Osasu Obayiuwana
December 23 – Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Ahmad has told Insideworldfootball in Doha, Qatar, that a firm decision on the timing of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, to be staged in Cameroon, will be taken during CAF’s next executive committee meeting.
When Insideworldfootball asked the CAF President whether a move back to January/February, for the 2021 AFCON, is the preferred and most practical alternative, the Malagasy said it appeared to be the case.
According to the current calendar, the revamped FIFA Club World Cup would begin on June 17 and end on July 4, five days before the scheduled start of the AFCON.
The closeness between the two competitions ensures that several national teams on the continent will not have their key players for the traditional two-week camping period, before the kick-off of Africa’s most important football event.
“When we took the decision to move the Africa Cup of Nations to June, which we did for the last tournament in Egypt, we have always said that we need to have some flexibility over the dates,” Ahmad told this reporter, during a breakfast conversation, hours before the final of the FIFA Club World Cup.
“This is because of the different climatic conditions in the continent. I don’t know why the media has forgotten that this was discussed in detail, at the 2017 CAF symposium that we had in Morocco.”
“In my view, it is not possible, because of the climatic conditions in Cameroon, to stage the Africa Cup of Nations in June/July. This is clear, so we must take a decision on the date,” Ahmad said.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s President, has been repeatedly criticised, within influential African football circles, for not taking the AFCON into consideration and respecting the continent’s long-standing traditions, when scheduling the 2021 Club World Cup.
But Ahmad insists Infantino has not disrespected African football. “There are certainly Europeans that have no respect or regard for African football. But Gianni is not amongst them,” Ahmad said.
“Gianni loves African football. He really wants to see African football develop. His concern for our development is genuine. Yet, some people say that he has no respect for African football. This is not correct.”
“He is working with us to ensure that African football is brought to a much higher level than we are at now. And I am grateful to him for his support,” the CAF President said.
Ahmad also told Insideworldfootball that plans for the staging of the 2019 Champions League final, which will be, for the first time, a single game played at a neutral venue, as is the case with the UEFA version, are on course.
Many within African football have questioned the viability of this format, because of the long distances to travel and high cost of air fares, for fans across the continent, many of whom don’t have the disposable income to pay for such trips.
“We took the decision to change the format, after what happened at the last final in Tunis. We will make every effort to ensure that it is successful.”
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