Africa’s world cup, the Africa Cup of Nations starts on 09 January 2022 in Cameroon. This tournament never seizes to garner criticism from the wider soccer community since its inception in 1957. One of the thorny issues is the date. The date is smack dub in the middle of the European season. Africa draws most of its stars from the stronger European leagues with exception of Egypt and Tunisia which have relatively strong leagues of their own. A number of clubs particularly in England stand to lose the spine of their teams. Top 6 in England, Manchester United (Eric Bailly(Cote D’Iviore)), Liverpool(Salah, Keita, Mane,Matip (Egypt,Guinea, Senegal and Cameroon). So one can understand the anger at the timing. There are some soccer fans on the continent accusing the European giants of racism. They have a point though. For the club world cup occurs in the middle of the season year after year which clashes with the busiest period in the soccer calendar. Clubs rarely raise objections to it taking place. Why is it different for the AFCON?.
This brings me to another thorny issue. The Club world Cup 2021. The tournament is going ahead a day after the Nations Cup Finals and Gianni Infantino the FIFA president seeking a postponement of the AFCON. That certainly shows how valuable the Cup is to FIFA doesn’t it? The 2019 Tournament looked to be the dawn of a new era because it was moved to June, the European off season. The 2021 edition was moved back to January because wait for this, the equatorial weather would be unideal for soccer. This for me is a lousy excuse by CAF for , one, modern stadia should be able to withstand extreme weather such as torrential Cameroon rain. The real reason from where I am standing was to allow Cameroon to finish the new stadiums they promised on time.
On the positive side , the AFCON has been good to develop soccer on the African continent. Remember Africa has only 5 slots at the world cup so the smaller nations rarely get top class matches. AFCON provides that so it should not be belittled as the soccer super powers are doing right now. Talent such as Benni McCarthy( South Africa), Mahomed Abou Terika(Egypt) and Chris Katongo(Zambia) becoming household stars because of the tournament. Lastly, the awarding of the tournament to Cameroon shows the bias CAF has for West and North Africa. Southern Africa and East Africa which has better climate and stadiums has largely been shunned. Another option for CAF which would make everyone happy was for it to take place in a bubble in Europe. That way the distance traveled will be in short, in countries non red list covid countries. That way no time is lost quarantining when the big stars head back to their clubs. Cameroon has certainly been a very controversial choice of host. The fact that there is a civil war raging on in the English speaking regions of the country doesn’t help too.