South Africa

Covid-19 & Football: Africa Cup of Nations postponed to 2022

Ahmed Musa of Nigeria is challenged by Thamsanqa Mkhize of South Africa, left, during the quarter-final match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Samuel Shivambu)

The Confederation of African Football met on Tuesday to pave the way forward for continental football amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Africa Cup of Nations, scheduled to take place in Cameroon in 2021, has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will now take place in January 2022 in Cameroon.

This was announced by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) following an executive committee meeting which took place on Tuesday, 30 June.

“This decision was taken due to the uncertainties about the coronavirus health situation and especially because of the scheduling problems since four rounds of qualifiers would need to be fitted into the October and November windows for international matches,” Caf president Ahmad Ahmad said at a virtual press conference following the meeting.

This means that African countries will play two major tournaments in one year, with 2022 also being a World Cup year. Hardly ideal for African sides that toiled in the 2018 edition of the global showpiece. 

The executive committee also took the decision to postpone the African Nations Championship (Chan), which was originally set to kick off in January 2020, but was shifted to April before being postponed again. Now it will take place in January 2021.

“The Caf Executive Committee is satisfied with the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment towards the hosting of the two competitions. Cameroon is ready to host either competition and are within schedule,” Ahmad said.

At club level, the Caf Champions League and the Confederation Cup have also been affected by Covid-19. 

Caf stated that those competitions will resume in September in the form of a final-four format. The Confederation Cup mini-tournament will be played in Morocco while the venue of the Champions League is still being pondered.

Prior to the competitions being halted a few months ago, Egypt’s big names, Ahly and Zamalek, had been set to play Champions League semi-finals against Moroccan sides Wydad de Casablanca and Raja de Casablanca respectively.

Whereas the men’s competitions were postponed, Caf took the decision to cancel the women’s 2020 edition of the Afcon, citing “challenging conditions”. 

Meanwhile, in what is meant to be a boost for women’s football continentally, the administrative body for African football announced that the Caf Women’s Champions League will be launched in 2021.

This announcement was welcomed by the South African Football Association (Safa). Safa chief executive Tebogo Motlanthe said the announcement was a huge boost for women’s football in South Africa, which has just concluded its inaugural Safa National Women’s League (SNWL) season.

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis also chipped in on what this means for the development of women’s football in the country.

“This can only help our national teams to grow from strength to strength and I would like to wish inaugural SNWL champions Mamelodi Sundowns all the best,” said Ellis. DM

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