Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

The Africa Cup of Nations postponed until 2022 due to coronavirus

Tournament scheduled to kick-off in January 2021 has been delayed for 12 months and will take place in same year as next World Cup

The Africa Cup of Nations, due to kick-off in Cameroon in January 2021, has been postponed for 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A definitive date for the tournament and the final matches of the qualifiers are yet to be decided.

It means the biannual tournament will now be in the same year as the 2022 World Cup finals – something that last happened in 2010.

The decision comes comes after Euro 2020 and the Copa America were both put back until 2021 earlier this year.

Algeria are the reigning African champions after beating Senegal 1-0 in Cairo in 2019.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) made the call for next year's tournament on Tuesday.

The Covid-19 health crisis has suspended football across most of the continent since March and left little time to complete the qualification competition, said CAF president Ahmad Ahmad.

"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," said Ahmad.

This will mean European clubs will now play all of next season without the possibility of losing their top African talent for a month.

Newly crowned English Premier League champions Liverpool, for example, will keep a hold of their prolific strike force of Senegal's Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah of Egypt.

Reigning champions Algeria were captained to glory by Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez, who can now remain part of manager Pep Guardiola's plans for the whole campaign.

"I think this is a wise decision because time is very short now and they could not postpone to the summer," Nigeria manager Gernot Rohr told BBC Sport Africa.

"I can understand this decision – we have more time now to prepare our young boys. It is not all bad.

"There is a positive side in all this and we have time for some friendlies and also for the beginning of the World Cup qualifiers.

"Normally we will begin in November with this, and I think we can follow the plan and still have time to the Afcon qualifiers starting in October, so it is a wise decision and it will be a big year in 2022."

The Africa Nations Championship, which is the tournament for quasi-national teams made up of locally-based players only, will now be played in January.

Cameroon will also be asked to stage the semi-finals and final of this year's African Champions League.

There will be a single semi-final stage and then the final, likely in September, said the CAF president.

The same procedure will be used for the African Confederation Cup, suspended before the semi-final stage. Its last three games will be staged in Morocco.

"But we have to see what happens with the pandemic and what the situation will be. We have made a decision today but this could all change tomorrow," said Ahmad.

CAF has decided to scrap this year's African Women's Championship. No new host has been found since Congo withdrew last year.

However, CAF said it would launch a Women's Champions League in 2021.

African football's governing body said it had allocated an additional $16.2 million (Dh59.5m) to assist member associations hit by the pandemic. Each country will be given an extra $300,000.

Updated: June 30, 2020 09:22 PM

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