Abdelmounaim Bah, General Secretary of the Confederation of African football says that moving the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament to June or July is not an option, but January 2022 would be an alternative in the event the finals fail to be staged next year.
Qualifying matches for Afcon have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, a move that could see the finals scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, 2021, being moved to later dates.
Caf has already cancelled the March and June qualifiers, and Bah says it is now impossible to have August matches go ahead as planned.
With some countries intending to have their domestic leagues running in the next few months and also following the resumption of football in Europe, Caf hopes Afcon qualifiers could continue in October, at a time when four rounds of matches would have already been lost.
“What we can say is that all the confederations hope to be able to play again this year and each is making its [own] arrangements. In this regard, the Asian confederation has announced that it will resume its qualifications in October and November. And at Caf we subscribe to this logic,” Bah told journalists.
“The international windows scheduled for March and June have been cancelled, but the months of October and November 2020 represent a lot of hope. We no longer include September in the strategies because it will be quite complicated to have the teams travel from one country to another as early as September. This means that the matches can resume locally but international matches will be difficult to be held because of the travel factor.”
Bah says if Afcon fails to take place in January 2021, the next best option would be to stage the tournament 12 months later. He says switching the tournament to June 2021 would see Afcon suffer counter-attraction from the European Championship and Copa America.
“If we cannot make up for the Afcon 2021 qualifiers in October and November, we will have to think of another plan… But today the longer the crisis lasts, the more this scenario deserves to be thought about. Afcon next January, however, remains our number one priority,” said Bah.
“January 2022 remains the second option for Afcon 2022…As everyone knows, playing in June/July in Cameroon is difficult because of the weather conditions. In addition, in June/July 2021 there is already a lot of competition with the Euros and the Copa America. So the best time to postpone the Afcon would be January 2022. But all that I repeat, these are alternatives because our priority for the Afcon is to play in January 2021.”
Also affected by the coronavirus is the African Nations Championship which was due for April 2020 in Cameroon as well as the Africa Women Cup of Nations which was slated for November and Caf admits that both tournaments would be difficult to reschedule.
The current Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup campaigns which were stopped at the semi-final stages could, however, resume “very soon.”
“We can announce here that the Champions League and the Confederation Cup are the competitions by which we will resume very soon. Besides, this year we have four magnificent posters not to be missed,” Bah said.