The next African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2021) has been postponed to January 2022 and the next African Nations Championship has replaced the AFCON in the African football calendar.
The Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, announced the postponement of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON to January 2022 citing the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason.
The tournament had been scheduled to take place between January and February next year. The football governing body, however, decided that the local version of the AFCON, the Championship of African Nations, CHAN, will take place in January 2021.
It had originally been slated to be played in April this year. Both competitions will be hosted by Cameroon.
CAF President Ahmad Ahmad speaks to Radio Foot Internationale to give an in-depth explanation in a Q&A interview.
Below is the full Q& A interview with the CAF President.
RFI: President Ahmad, the 2021 African Cup of Nations will finally take place in January 2022. Was this postponement inevitable?
Ahmad: This is the direct consequence of the coronavirus. This prevented us from organizing the qualifications for this competition. There are four days of qualifying left.
And then the CAN is not just a football party. It is also a great African celebration. So we didn’t want to take the risk of organizing it with empty stadiums. Especially since we end up with an absence of visibility on the continent. In June, the cases of Covid-19 are increasing day by day, which is not the case on other continents
With all these elements, and after having discussed with all the stakeholders of African football as well as the Cameroonian authorities, we met today to take this decision and thus preserve the African Cup of Nations.
Cameroonians have already invested billions of CFA francs to host the African Cup of Nations. What was the reaction of the government of Cameroon when you told them about this postponement?
It is precisely to preserve their enormous investments that, by mutual agreement with them, we made this decision. But not only with them. There are also business partners.
Have you thought about trying to finish the last four days of CAN 2021 qualifiers during the months of October and November 2020 alone?
Yes, we have taken all these elements into account, but we must not forget that, until now, we do not know when African airlines will resume their flights. […] Even if we took basic agreements with regard to the international calendar, during the last FIFA Council, the FIFA president always specified that everything remained flexible. Because we are living in an unprecedented period during which we have no control over things.
Instead of the CAN 2021, next January in Cameroon, there will therefore be the next African Nations Championship (CHAN 2020) which was to take place in April. You are offering this competition to Cameroonians.
Exact! I have already informed the Cameroonian authorities. Because, as you know, for each decision taken, we discuss with the stakeholders. I can guarantee you that everything we have decided has always been done by mutual agreement with the Cameroonian government.
When you decided in 2017 that the African Cups of Nations would now take place in June, everyone considered that it suited Fifa and Europe. Especially since the following three final phases were already planned in countries – Cameroon for 2019, Côte d’Ivoire for 2021 and Guinea for 2023 – where June corresponds to the rainy season. Constantly changing dates for CAN has not weakened CAF in the eyes of FIFA in particular?
I don’t know if you have kept the recording of the press conference I hosted after the symposium in Morocco. But I always said that this decision [to play in June, Editor’s note] was subject to the place where the CAN was taking place. […]
And then, why speculate all the time? It was thought that CAN 2019 would take place in Cameroon and it took place in June in Egypt. Today, we are talking about CAN 2021 which will take place in January 2022 in Cameroon. Don’t rush and don’t speculate. Let’s wait for CAN 2023 to arrive and we’ll see.
And then we did not choose it [that Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea, are hosts of the CAN, Editor’s note] . We inherited this situation and we assume it in the name of the continuity of the administration of CAF. […] When we took office, we listened to people and then we made decisions about what the stakeholders in African football wanted.
Can there be a CAN in January 2023 in Côte d’Ivoire, while there is a CAN in 2022 and a World Cup at the end of 2022 in Qatar?
I am not one of the managers who speculate too much. I move forward and then I make the necessary decisions with my peers.
When we see all the difficulties that CAF has faced and the fact that FIFA pushes for a CAN every 4 years, does this option remain taboo?
We do what the people want, what Africa wants. I am here as an African leader. We, the members of the Executive Committee, are elected by African associations. […] Can’t we also ask a question: is it too much that African children, so young, come back to their continent for just one month every two years? […]
The women’s CAN, it was not postponed like the CAN 2021 or the CHAN 2020. It was canceled.
Effectively. This is the result of a proposal from the Women’s Football Commission which analyzed the situation. The playoffs cannot be held. And, at the start, the women’s CAN was used as a qualifier for the Women’s World Cup. However, as there is no World Cup in 2021, we said to ourselves “let’s prepare our athletes through the clubs ” by organizing competitions such as the Women’s Champions League and CAN 2022 in anticipation of the World Cup. 2023.