Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Sadio Mane (Senegal) are two of the biggest names to play at the African Cup of Nations. Peter Byrne
Club v Country

Clubs to lose stars mid-season as African Cup of Nations switches back to January

A number of top players will be unavailable due to today’s decision ahead of the 2021 tournament in Cameroon.

THE AFRICAN CUP of Nations will revert to its former time slot of January and February for the next edition in 2021, hosts Cameroon said today.

The tournament’s organising committee, as well as the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot), revealed that the tournament will be played from 9 January to 6 February, 2021 after a meeting with Confederation of African Football (Caf) chief Ahmad Ahmad in Yaounde.

A statement published on the Caf’s website said organisers had asked for the dates to be changed because of “the unfavourable weather conditions during the period initially scheduled”.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s first 24-team edition in Egypt, in large part to avoid clashing with the European club season.

However, the competition, won by Algeria, was played in the searing heat of the north African summer. Meanwhile, the same period coincides with the rainy season in Cameroon.

Organisers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with meteorological experts, as well as player and coach representatives.

The Central African country was initially scheduled to be the venue for the 2019 Cup of Nations but Caf stripped it of its hosting rights in late 2018 because of delays in its preparations.

Cameroon, which has been plagued by violence in its troubled anglophone region and is also fighting the Islamist insurgency of the Boko Haram group in the north of the country, had initially been awarded the tournament before its expansion from 16 to 24 teams.

crystal-palace-v-arsenal-premier-league-selhurst-park Crystal Palace's Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), who have both captained their national teams. Tess Derry Tess Derry

The date change is also convenient for Fifa, given that world football’s governing body will stage the first 24-team Club World Cup in China in June and July of 2021.

It comes with Fifa’s Senegalese secretary general Fatma Samoura having been named as general delegate for Africa last year to oversee reforms within African football’s governing body.

However, the change may not be viewed so positively by leading European clubs, who now risk losing key players to the competition for up to five weeks midway through next season.

© AFP 2019

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