The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has been postponed to January 2022 by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The tournament had been set to take place in January next year.
In other news, the African Nations Championship (CHAN), which should have been played back in April, will now take place in January 2021.
Both competitions are set to be held in Cameroon.
“Health is our number one priority. We must remain vigilant,” Caf president Ahmad Ahmad said in a news conference on Tuesday June 30, announcing the move.
The decision means the biannual tournament will now be in the same year as the 2022 World Cup – something that last happened in 2010.
It was moved to odd-numbered years in 2013 – that year’s tournament coming only a year after the previous one – to avoid such clashes, which risked disadvantaging African teams at the World Cup by giving them such an extended season of competition.
Traditionally held in January, the most recent Afcon in 2019 was moved to the summer in an effort to avoid clashing with the major European league competitions. This was meant to be the case for the Cameroon tournament as well, but that was then changed back to January owing to climactic conditions in the country and a potential clash with the Club World Cup.
The decision to push off AFCON 2021 isn’t a major shock.
The qualification process for the tournament still hasn’t been completed, and with the ongoing insecurities during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s unclear when these matches can be staged.
On the other hand, the postponement means that the next African Cup of Nations will be in the same year as the Qatar World Cup.
The move means that defending Premier League champions Liverpool will play all of next season without losing their key strike force of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to international duty alongside midfielder Naby Keita.
Other clubs with African players such as Manchester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez, Chelsea’s new signing, Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech and Ivory Coast and Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe alongside his clubmate and Togo forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will also play the entire next season.
Elsewhere, Tottenham’s Serge Aurier and Everton’s Alex Iwobi will also be affected by the postponement alongside Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace.