After turbulent preparation and still in doubt, the finals of the Africa Cup will begin on Sunday in Cameroon, albeit with doubts about the long-term future of the tournament.
Africa’s support for the proposal by FIFA President Gianni Infantino to change the frequency of the World Cup to every two years threatens the biennial Cup of Nations.
The 54 member associations in Africa unanimously voted for the idea of a more frequent World Cup at last year’s congress, without discussing how this would affect their own tournament in the packed international calendar.
The Cup of Nations, which now Expanding to 24 teams proves to be a drain on resources.
This edition has been postponed twice, first in 2019 when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) found the country wasn’t ready and took it to Egypt instead, and again last January because of COVID-19 -Pandemic.
Cameroon won the 2014 finals and built new stadiums in Bafoussam, Douala, Limbe and Yaounde, but work on the flagship Olembe Stadium in Yaounde continued until the start of the tournament and is proving to be a big reason for Concern and argument.
CAF was so concerned about the readiness of the venue and the general organizational preparation of Cameroon that they held an emergency meeting last month to discuss the cancellation of the tournament.
This was also motivated by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus and the possible impact on the event, but in the end it was decided to continue despite much disagreement.
The timing of the tournament, in the middle of the club season in Europe, where the majority of African national players play, drew the anger of the clubs, which also demanded a cancellation.
They were also concerned about a possible quarantine for players returning to Europe from Africa after completing their participation in the finals, which would prolong their absence from the clubs.
Managers like Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp, who lost Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, were irritated that they had to give up important players at a crucial point in their season.
The Cup of Nations will be played in January in Cameroon due to the heavy rainy season in the middle of the year, but will return to a June-July slot when the Ivory Coast hosts the next final in 2023.
The 2025 finals have been awarded to Guinea, but CAF will discuss this week whether the country can host the tournament.
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