The Africa Cup of Nations could be postponed until 2022 to avoid clashes with other competitions and buy the Confederation of African Football more time to stage qualifiers and play-offs for the continental tournament.
The event had been scheduled for January 2021 in Cameroon but French station, Radio Monte Carlo, quoted a CAF source who said the event could either be postponed until January 2022, or even the summer of that year, to create more room for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
“There is almost no chance for the African Cup of Nations 2021 to be held next January,” the source said.
“It’s also possible to make it in the summer of 2022, because the World Cup will take place in November 2022.”
“But we have to study this idea very well so as not to destabilise the African teams participating in the World Cup,” the source added.
Postponing the event until 2022 would buy CAF more time to complete the four full rounds of qualifiers and a round of play-offs for the tournament that still need to be completed.
An event in the summer of 2022 would prove more popular with the leading European teams who will be loath to lose their best African players mid-season.
The leading European clubs would like Fifa to discuss the harmonisation of the calendar so that all confederation tournaments take place at the same time, two years after the Fifa World Cup, allowing a rest period every other summer for the leading players.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has also proposed that the Africa Cup of Nations be held every four years rather than biennially when the global governing body took control of CAF to clean up its governance practices and financial controls.
CAF initially awarded hosting rights for the 2019, 2021 and 2023 editions of its showpiece tournament to Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea, respectively, back in 2014. However, a subsequent decision to expand the competition from 16 to 24 teams for the 2019 Cup of Nations led to significant infrastructure challenges for host nations.
Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights for the 2019 Cup of Nations amid delays in stadium construction and the event was awarded to Egypt. Cameroon was subsequently handed the 2021 tournament meaning that the Ivory Coast’s hosting rights were put back to 2023.
The last tournament in Egypt in 2019 was held in the summer but CAF moved the 2021 tournament back to January to avoid a scheduling clash with Fifa’s expanded Club World Cup. However, the latter tournament has now been postponed indefinitely to accommodate Uefa’s rescheduled Euro 2020 and Conmebol’s Copa America national team tournaments.