By Angu Lesley
Football Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon
As African Football stakeholders continue to wait for CAF’s decision on the future of the continent’s football and the future of the 2021 African Cup of Nations [AFCON] tournament penciled for Cameroon, there is a likelihood that it may not go as planned despite CAF’s insistence.
Looking at a range of football and auxiliary football factors vis-à-vis the Coronavirus pandemic, this reporter can say it is only a matter of time before CAF adopts a new schedule for the tournament.
Looking at multiple reasons, this Pan-African Sports News Agency won’t be surprised if in the end, CAF decides to have the CHAN 2020 in January 2021.
There are a handful of factors to substantiate this option viz:
The African Nations Championship [CHAN] tournament was initially slated to take place in Cameroon in April this year as an experiment for the 2021 AFCON.
Unfortunately, the CHAN was postponed due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 across the continent in March.
The 16 participants for the next CHAN tournament are already known, the tournament’s draw has been conducted, referees shortlisted, the sites are all ready for the tournament amongst other factors.
In addition, the tournament is exclusively for players based on the continent, this makes assembly of the teams easier, without the problem of releasing players as it always the case with the AFCON tournaments in January.
In all sense of it, January does not have an official FIFA international window.
This means European Clubs still dealing with the pandemic may find it very difficult to release their players especially for elite Clubs involved in the UEFA Champions League. January risk being the business end of the group stages of the 2020-2021 UEFA Champions League season.
A school of thought holds that CAF should cancel the CHAN, but hold! CAF has sponsorship deals for the CHAN tournament. This makes it difficult to completely cancel the tournament. Therefore, if there is no cancelation, there is need to have the tournament and most likely before the AFCON.
Another key factor could be the cost of managing the CHAN delegation’s medical protocol compared to that of the AFCON. The CHAN is for 16 nations with a maximum of 40 persons per delegation while the AFCON is for 24 nations with the same or a higher number per official delegation.
Looking at the number of persons for the CHAN, it is cheaper to test members of official delegation for the CHAN and implement a particular medical protocol.
Another key factor which favours this option is the location of the players. The fact that CHAN is for local players can allow participants to assemble their players for a period of time and isolate them in preparation for the competition which is not possible for the AFCON which usually has over 70% of the players plying their trade away from their country.
The abovementioned reasons, plus the fact that, it may require an extraordinary turn of events to finish the January 2021 AFCON qualifiers in time, reopens the doors for a CHAN tournament in January 2021. This will provide a test for the management of a major men’s tournament in January 2021 before the AFCON possibly in January 2022 as suggested by Interim CAF Secretary-general Abdel Bah as CAF contingency plan.
There had previously been acrimony over CAF’s desire to shoehorn a new 24 nations one-month AFCON tournament in January 2021.
What is AFCON without the best African players? Perhaps the AFCON tournament in 2022 provides a relatively free summer for CAF, giving that the 2021 summer is already saturated with the European Championship and the Copa America tournaments.
We anticipate a final decision from CAF within the next 30 days.
The CAF has insisted on multiple occasions that the CHAN 2020, the supposed preparatory tournament for the 2021 AFCON, has been postponed and not annulled.
There have been calls for a postponement of the 2021 AFCON tournament from a section of African Football legends including Samuel Eto’o Fils who works in close collaboration with the CAF boss Ahmad Ahmad.
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