COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every sector and soccer was not an exception. While European leagues have resumed, most African leagues are yet to figure out a resumption plan. However, it is not only the national leagues that are struggling. A few weeks ago, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced the postponement of the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). But, was it the right move?
The 2021 AFCON was supposed to start on January 9 in Cameroon. However, following the decision of CAF’s Executive Committee, that date will now be sometime in January 2022. Inasmuch as the details remain scanty, reports have it that the reason for the postponement was due to fears that the rest of the qualifiers may not hold in time. The big question now is what happens to AFCON 2023. In a statement, CAF said,
“After consultation with stakeholders and taking into consideration the current global situation, the tournament has been rescheduled for January 2022. The date for the final tournament and the remaining matches of the qualifiers will be communicated in due course.”
— #TotalAFCONU20 (@CAF_Online) June 30, 2020
Africa currently has over 850,000 cases of the virus. Also, the continent has over 18,400 fatalities with more than 520,000 recoveries. Inasmuch as there is no approved cure or vaccine yet, playing without fans have worked for most leagues. Bearing in mind that it is still a while before 2021, the decision of the African football governing body can be considered hasty.
CAF postponement may affect Africa’s chances at the World Cup
The AFCON for a long time held between January and February. However, this resulted in a serious club vs. country dispute. Consequently, the 2019 edition was moved to June-July by the newly elected CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad. The 33rd edition was brought back to January 2021 citing unfavorable weather in Cameroon during the summer months. Furthermore, Ahmad has dispelled the rumor that the Central African nation will no longer be the host.
“The CAF Executive Committee is satisfied with the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment towards the hosting of the two competitions. Cameroon is ready to host either competition and are within schedule.”
With the next soccer Mundial scheduled for Qatar in late 2022, it is unclear how Africa will pull this off. African teams are yet to play the six qualifying games that would see the emergence of five teams for the World Cup. Also, the biennial competition serves as a preparation for African teams for the World Cup. However, with the postponement into the World Cup year, it may become a distraction that will lead to the buildup of fatigue for the qualifying teams.
Controversy with the cancellation of the 2020 African Women’s Cup of Nation
CAF Executive Committee announced the cancellation of the 2020 African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON). Also, the body announced the inauguration of a new women’s Champions League in 2021. However, this decision has met lots of criticism. Many are asking for the rationale behind the postponement of the male version and the cancellation of the female.
Other competitions POSTPONED but AWCON “CANCELLED” thank you once again for making us realize women’s football isn’t important to you.congratulations on dragging us back AGAIN.Adios 👋🏾to all the women National teams in Africa,see y’all in 2022 #PrioritizeWomensFootball #NoExcuse https://t.co/HP5Jk8QzJJ
— ASISAT M.O.N (@AsisatOshoala) July 3, 2020
At the forefront of this argument is Asisat Oshoala, Barcelona Femeni and Nigeria Super Falcons forward. According to Oshoala, the cancelation shows that “women football isn’t important”. In an interview with BBC Africa, the four-time African Women Footballer of the Year said,
“It is not good for women’s football in Africa. When you have a great deal of difficulty finding a host nation for a continental tournament every two years. We cannot be at that level in 2020. That’s too bad. The CAF must return to the starting bases in order to make women’s football one of its main priorities. They need to prioritize the marketing of women’s football,”
CAF’s postponements and cancellations seem a bit hasty. The successful completion of European leagues shows that with the right measures in place, the game of soccer can continue. Moreover, there is no clear indication that a drug or vaccine may be approved soon. Therefore, what is the guarantee that the new date will be safe enough for the resumption of competitions? We will love to hear your views on this. Feel free to drop your comments below.