THE COVID-19 pandemic has claimed its biggest prize in African football.
The pandemic, which has infected close to 400 000 Africans, killed close to 10 00, disrupted lives and destroyed economies, has forced the postponement of the 2021 edition of African Cup of Nations.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), the ultimate authority in football on the continent, has announced that the 2021 competition, due to take place in January in Cameroon, has been put off by 12 months.
CAF President Ahmad Ahmad announced the postponement of the 33rd edition of the prestigious tournament. He said the suspension of football since March, when African nations imposed lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, left little time to complete qualification rounds for the competition. “Four rounds of qualifiers would need to be fitted into October and November windows for international matches,” he said.
Ahmad announced that to make up for Cameroon’s loss of hosting the premier tournament, the country will now stage the Africa Nations Championship, a second-grade tournament in which national teams only made up of local players, participate.
The CAF president said Cameroon, which has spent millions to prepare to host the African Cup of Nations, will also host the semi-finals and finals of the 2020 edition of the African Champions League. The premier tournament is contested by top clubs across Africa.
“We have made a decision today but this could all change tomorrow,” he said.
Ahmad also made two new major announcements. The first was that CAF has allocated $16.2-million to assist national bodies hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each national football association will be given $300 000.
The second was that the organisation has decided to scrap this year’s African Women Championship because no new host could be found after the DRC withdrew.