GOAL - Ed Dove
The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) has been postponed by 12 months, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed in their Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The 33rd edition of the biennial tournament was due to begin in Cameroon on January 9, 2021, but has now been pushed back to January 2022 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the continent.
The CAF Executive Committee held a meeting on Tuesday, 30 June 2020, via video-conference to discuss the future of competitions and other related issues following the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee decided as follows 👇— CAF (@CAF_Online) June 30, 2020
CAF’s concerns about the ability to fit in the outstanding qualifiers before the intended start date of January 2021 are behind the decision to postpone the 24-team tournament, although African football’s governing body has not announced whether the 34th edition of the tournament—scheduled for Ivory Coast in 2023—will also be pushed back.
On Thursday, FIFA announced that September's international football window would be cancelled for all territories outside Europe and South America, denying Africa a critical window in which to play some of the outstanding four rounds of qualification.
While CAF could play some of the outstanding qualifiers in the October-November international window, this would impact the World Cup qualifying campaign, where the five qualifying teams must play in eight qualifiers before the Qatar tournament in late 2022.
Algeria are the reigning African champions, having defeated Senegal 1-0 in the 2019 final in Cairo.
The Africa Cup of Nations was long held during January and February, but moved to a June-July schedule ahead of the 2019 event, with newly elected president Ahmad Ahmad keen to avoid the club-vs-country disputes that often overshadowed a tournament being played during the European winter.
However, the 2021 tournament’s dates have already been moved once, with the original June-July 2021 dates brought forward to January due to the unfavourable climate in Cameroon during the summer months.
CAF also confirmed the 2020 African Nations Championship—the biennial tournament for home-based players—will be played next year, having originally been scheduled for April 2020.
The Chan—which was also due to be held in Cameroon—had been indefinitely postponed due to the onset of Covid-19.
CAF’s decision comes after Uefa pushed the 2020 European Championships back by 12 months, while the 2020 Copa America has also been shunted back to a 2021 start date.
Also announced during the meeting, CAF has revealed that the semi-finals of their two continental club competitions—the Champions League and Confederation Cup—will be one-legged affairs moving forward, rather than the home-and-away ties previously.
For women’s football across the continent, the 2020 African Women’s Cup of Nations has been cancelled, while CAF has announced the inauguration of a new women’s Champions League, which will begin in 2021.