Africa must stand its ground, hold 2021 Afcon as planned

Monday December 27 2021
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From left: Fifa president Gianni Infantino, President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe during the Caf Executive Committee held in Kigali, Rwanda on May 15, 2021. PHOTO | POOL


It is official. The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will begin in the next 13 days. There will be no more negotiations and the European clubs that had beseeched the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to see about its postponement must get used to it.

CAF has had to stand its ground about this matter, and it behooves all stakeholders to respect this decision.

The timing has inadvertently slid back to the early days when it roughly collided with the leagues in the rest of the world. This slight oversight is not the fault of the African federation but the unforeseen covid-19 attack.

Fifa President Gianni Infantino has himself took the easier way out and has avoided any controversy over Afcon’s timing.

His only advice is that it should be in future held sometime in September and August; we have not yet established the climatic conditions in this continent at that time of the year, and all we know is that it will still coincide with the leagues in the rest of the world.

We do see the enormity of this situation for Europe but there isn’t much that can be done to smooth up the issue.


Africa must stand her ground even though it ruffles the others. It requires understanding from all the parties concerned. In the English Premier League, the following players will have to be released for Afcon national duty:

Arsenal FC will have to do without Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, and Nicolas  Pépé; At Aston Villa, Mahmoud Trezeguet, Bertrand Traore and Marvelous Nakamba will be going to play for their countries.

 We could name all of them in order, but we do know that there are 38 players from the English  Premier League that must decamp as soon as possible from their teams for the imminent national duty.

Liverpool will have to lose Sadio Mane,  Mohammed Salah and Naby Keita, all of whom are dependable players.  These are only African players that ply their trade in England. The effect on the rest of Europe is even bigger.

Our other fear is that the same players will take part in the grueling competition and then head back to Europe and their teams to complete the rest of the season-especially if they do not pick up some injuries in the process.

After the conclusion of the European leagues sometime in April,  those whose teams shall progress in the European Champions League shall take part in the elegant finals sometime in May; after that, they will be required for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

This tight schedule has been the bane of Africa for a very long time, and is the main reason for the dismal performance of the same aces at the international arena.

We thus admit there isn’t much CAF can do at this juncture to save the situation. My plea is that after 2021 Afcon, we should again try to streamline the calendar to make it more conducive for us. It will be good for the whole continent.