By Angu Lesley
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon
2002 AFCON winner Nicolas Alnoudji has called on the Confederation of African Football, CAF to reschedule the 2021 African Cup of Nations tournament.
Speaking in a recent interview with Kick442.com, the midfielder who contributed to Cameroon’s success in Mali in 2002 says AFCON is more than just a football tournament emphasizing the need to have the event when African minds are fully at peace.
Alnoudji’s comments come barely 24 hours after Christian Bassogog, winner of the competition in 2017 made a similar call.
CAF has been unable to schedule qualifiers games for them since November 2019 as fixtures of March and June 2020 have been called off due to the health threats of the Coronavirus pandemic on the continent.
The SC Bastia midfielder says CAF must win the physical and psychological battle before the assembly of footballers and fans.
“I believe it better and welcome to postpone the competition. It is important to remark that the pandemic is still very active. Most of the Clubs competitions that involved are players have been over or stopped for long. In this situation, it takes a lot to be back in full shape for tournament competition. So, it may present a lot of player’s availability problems. In addition, the players, and supporters may not be psychologically prepared to travel for such a big event in January which is such time from now though the virus is not yet over,” Alnoudji told kick442.com this Tuesday.
African Football legends Samuel Eto’o and El Hadj Diouf have placed their bet on a postponement though interim CAF’s administrative boss, Abdel Bah has
repeatedly emphasized CAF is making commendable efforts to ensure the return of CAF.
This week Bah had a media outing in which he suggested they could be a contingency plan to have the event in January 2022 though emphasizing 2021 remains a priority.
Alnoudji subscribes to the 2022 argument;
“Well !! I am in Garoua, one of the selected host venues of the competition. I am observing the progress of work destined for the event. We still have a few things yet to be done here concerning lodging, but as you know Cameroonians like pressure. Maybe with the pressure of the tournament, we will complete the job”
Alnoudji however saluted efforts made in the construction of football infrastructures.
“The state of football infrastructures is already amazing. I will be glad to have the event here, I am a staunch supporter of the Indomitable Lions, but let’s take our time to stage a reference event without fears,” the erstwhile Cotonsport of Garoua and PSG midfielder concluded.
His submissions come when CAF is brainstorming with stakeholders, including the World Health Organization, and FIFA to find ways of outsmarting the threats of the Coronavirus pandemic and secure the return of football for a first time since March.
The 24 nations tournament [since 2019] is staged once every two years and is the final phase of the race to get the most successful national football selection in Africa per that period.
The prerequisite of participating in the competition is a successful qualifying campaign which involves between six and eight matches for some nations.
As of March 2020, two of the final six qualifying games for the 2021 competitions had been played.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the month of March prevented CAF from scheduling qualification matches that month, football suffered the same fate in the June FIFA international break.
The failure to exploit these two international breaks has left CAF with just three options, viz; resume qualifiers in September, and have at least two games in one of three windows left this year, or resume in October, and have two games per window. This will make it possible to complete the qualifiers this year and consequently have the Competition next year but how will the attendance be? Or take Bassogog’s advice which in itself comes with a long-term cost, especially vis-à-vis other competitions.
The final decision will be made by the CAF Executive committee led by president Ahmad Ahmad.
Africa was scheduled to assemble in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6 but Alnoudji is of the opinion that any month in 2022 is better.
The next AFCON if organized in 2021 will be the first in Cameroon in 48-years.
The Central African nation missed out on hosting the event last-year due to inadequacies pointed out by CAF.
40-year-old Alnoudji has retired and returned to Garoua and is still celebrated by Cameroonians who watch him boss the midfield in Cameroon’s Olympic Gold medal success in 2000 and the win in 2002 AFCON.
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