Panafrican News Agency

CAF sets January 2022 as AFCON tournament alternative schedule

Cairo, Egypt (PANA) - While the continental football governing body, CAF, is still optimistic that its flagship competition will go ahead in January 2021, it has rolled out a Plan B just in case.

CAF Secretary-General, Abdelmounaim Bah says moving the 2021 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 that the 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 said in a local Radio programme in Cairo, Egypt.

"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 said 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 (CHAN) 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.

-0- PANA VAO/AR 14June2020