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‘Our position is very clear’: CAF insists AFCON won’t be postponed

THE Confederation of African Football has confirmed to ESPN that reports claiming January’s Africa Cup of Nations will be postponed are false.

On Wednesday, it emerged that the European Club Association sent a letter to FIFA Deputy Secretary General Mattias Grafstrom on Dec. 10, aiming to prevent Europe-based players from reporting to camp for the biennial continental tournament.

In the letter, seen by ESPN, the ECA outlined their fears that CAF would not implement strict protocols to protect players from COVID-19 infection during the tournament, while also identifying as “unmanageable” the 2022 AFCON release dates (which start from December 27) and the clash with fixtures for English and French clubs allowing players to be released.

“As you know, the pandemic and its associated implications raised three fundamental concerns for clubs when it comes to the release of players to national teams,” the ECA said in a statement.

“First and foremost, the clubs’ duty to ensure each and every player’s wellbeing is properly protected; second, that clubs are not forced to be without players for club competition matches; third, that all players resume their activities with their clubs following national duty in a timely fashion, as per the applicable rules.”

This fuelled speculation about whether next year’s competition would go ahead, but CAF’s head of media relations, Luxolo September, was quick to refute this.

“Our position is very clear,” September told ESPN on Wednesday. “AFCON will be in Cameroon in January 2022. The opening match will be played on Jan. 9.

“[There have been] no discussions [about postponement], and there are zero contingency plans,” he added.

The ECA’s letter was sent in light of an Executive Board meeting on Dec. 2, and since then coronavirus cases have spiked globally against the backdrop of the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.

“The ECA executive board unanimously reconfirmed its position that the three principles referred to above must be strictly respected and should this not be the case, that players not be released for national team duty,” their letter concluded.
Despite this, CAF has told ESPN that discussions about cancellation or postponement are not being held regardless of the increasing pressure on the organisation.

“Simply, CAF are advancing well with our preparations, without thinking of cancellation,” CAF Director of Communications Alex Siewe told ESPN.

“Absolutely. To my knowledge, there have not been any [discussions regarding the ECA letter].”

ESPN

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