Samuel Eto'o among those calling for Afcon to be postponed

Themba Zwane of South Africa is challenged by Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria during Afcon in Egypt./Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix
Themba Zwane of South Africa is challenged by Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria during Afcon in Egypt./Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix

The Africa Cup of Nations is the latest international sports event to become embroiled in a debate about rescheduling in the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cup of Nations is set for the start of 2021 in Cameroon, but several leading figures in African football are pleading for a postponement.

Cameroon was originally scheduled to host the event in the summer of 2019, but Ahmad Ahmad, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), decided the hosts were not ready and moved the tournament to Egypt. That gave Cameroon two extra years to prepare.

After experimenting with a summer tournament in Egypt, CAF has returned to the winter slot, so unpopular with the European clubs, and the event is scheduled to run from January 9 to February 6 2021.

"The most important thing is health, and the African football authorities have understood that. I don't see my elder brother Ahmad risking the health of football lovers for an Africa Cup of Nations," former Cameroon captain Samuel Eto'o told France 24.

Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura, a member of the country's title-winning squad in 2019, agreed.

"I know that Africa Cup of Nations is important and it's good for the countries to organise it, but this one in 2021, I think it should be cancelled or postponed," he told the BBC.

Beyond the threat from Covid-19, the failure to complete the pre-tournament qualifiers is also worrying African leaders with four rounds of games remaining.

"If we have trouble organising the qualifiers before September, it would be difficult to hold the final tournament next January," wrote Augustin Senghor, president of the Senegalese FA, in an internal CAF newsletter in early May.

In Cameroon, the virus is posing problems in checking on the host nation's readiness. "The Cup of Nations will no longer be able to take place in January. Our borders are closed and no CAF inspection mission is possible," a Cameroonian football official said on condition of anonymity.

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