AFCON 2021 May be Shifted Due to COVID-19

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Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report

Super Eagles and other teams playing to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2021) have been told that unless the qualifiers are completed as scheduled, the tournament faces risk of been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are still four rounds of group matches to be played in qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which is set to take place in Cameroon from 9 January to 6 February 2021.

Just last month, Super Eagles qualifying match with Sierra Leone scheduled for the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba was postponed along with other games planned for that weekend due to the pandemic which has led to total lockdown in most cities of the world including Nigeria.

But President of Senegal’s football federation, Augustin Senghor, told BBC World Service’s Newsday programme yesterday that it will be “impossible” for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations to take place if qualifying cannot be completed.

Senghor said he is “very concerned for the future” and has called for a “world plan” to help reorganise the global football calendar in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need many FIFA windows to complete the qualifiers. And if we don’t play in June or in August I think it will be impossible to play the AFCON in January,” Senghor told the BBC.

He stressed that the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) would need to take a on wether to postpone the tournament.

“The executive committee of CAF will have to take a decision which would almost certainly be to postpone. Nobody can do anything if the conditions are not fulfilled.

“Nobody in the world can say that in September or November we’ll have won the battle against coronavirus which is why it’s very difficult to give a serious opinion on this matter. But what is important is that in this time we see if we can finalise the qualifiers.”

The postponement of football across the globe has also left domestic football in a state of limbo. Senegal’s local competitions just like in Nigeria still need to be completed and Senghor says a joint effort is now needed to help get schedules back on track.

“It’s not something only we can decide – we need to have consultation with UEFA and FIFA to know what’s best for football in the world. We have to organise a world plan to postpone or reorganise the football calendar agenda for the next months or the next years.

“If we have to postpone all the competitions and reorganise the football agenda, we’ll have to do it despite the interests of one party or another amongst the football associations.”

Senghor says the uncertainty about when it will be safe to start playing football again has had a deep financial impact on the game in his country.

“It is very, very, very hard for the clubs. It’s very difficult to pay the salaries, it is very difficult to continue to work when you don’t know when the situation will end.

“The clubs are asking for help from the FA and the state government and we are waiting for an answer from the government.

“Our federation finances all the competitions in the country and when we stopped, we had had many expenses from the first half of the championship. But now all is stopped and it will be very very difficult to find finance to play again when we have the end of the epidemic. That is why I am very very concerned with the future.”