More turmoil for CAF as AFCON 2021’s January dates look doubtful

May 29 – Reports in Africa suggest next year’s African Cup of Nations may be in jeopardy because of the Covid-19 outbreak, a further blow to hosts Cameroon.

The tournament is reverting back to its traditional January slot and would be a huge boost to Cameroon which was initially scheduled to be the venue for the 2019 event before CAF stripped the country of hosting rights because of delays in preparations and security concerns, and handed them 2021 instead.

But a number of reports are now indicating the switch back to January could hurt Cameroon’s chances and that the competition could be called off, with one unnamed CAF source quoted as saying: “There is almost no chance that the 2021 African Cup of Nations will be held next January.”

One option reportedly being considered is a 12-month postponement, another an 18-month delay but the first of those would clash with the World Cup in Qatar.

Former Zambia, Ivory Coast and Morocco coach Herve Renard, now in charge of Saudi Arabia, was quoted as saying the delay in finishing qualifiers, plus having to possibly play behind closed doors, may force a rethink. “It will be very tough because we are late now. Football without fans, for me, is not football. It will be very difficult; there will be no atmosphere, no colours, no music, no dance. In Africa, how do you play the Africa Cup of Nations without the fans. It’s not possible.”

Djibouti coach Julien Mette, however, argued that moving it forward would the best thing to do instead of a complete cancellation. “I think it is better to play the Africa Cup of Nations six months after January.”

And Zambia Coach Milutin Sredojevic was quoted by Ghana Web:  “I don’t agree that it should be cancelled entirely. The Afcon is like our World Cup. Football is supposed to give hope to Africans that it is possible for life to return to normal.”

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