Tuesday, January 25, 2022

African Cup buildup: O’Micron worries, players release clash | AP News

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon ( Associated Press) — Organizers of the African Cup of Nations have insisted the tournament will start as planned in Cameroon despite the fast-spreading Omicron edition adding to a wide list of concerns.

Perhaps the biggest doubt now is that national teams will have their full 28-man squads to prepare for Africa’s biggest football event early next month.

European clubs have threatened not to send any players after raising doubts about coronavirus health protocols put in place by the Confederation of African Football.

Now the organization representing the world’s major domestic leagues says teams should not release players until January 3, a week after FIFA has set and only six days before the start of the tournament. This will see superstars such as Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Sadio Mane (Senegal) play two more Premier League games.

“The (African Cup) will start a week earlier than usual due to its extended format and the CAF encourages the FA to convene more players than ever before,” the World Leagues Forum wrote in a letter to world and African governing bodies on Thursday. Is.” by Associated Press. “These decisions made unilaterally by FIFA and CAF have a huge impact on the integrity of domestic competitions, putting many clubs and players in a difficult position.”

Matches for the world’s two biggest leagues – the Premier League and La Liga – in England and Spain are on January 2 and will continue throughout the African Cup.

The World Leagues Forum called the earlier requirement for players to go on international duty “unfair and disproportionate to the many clubs and players playing at the time”, and said that any sanctions imposed by FIFA on clubs were “disrespectful, zero” will be considered. and zero.”

However there have been discussions about whether the already delayed 2021 African Cup of Nations could be postponed for a second time because of the coronavirus pandemic, or even moved to a country outside Africa. Maybe, CAF insists that it will still open on Jan. 9 at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

“Our clubs release players for these national team matches for free on payment of their salaries,” the World League Forum said in its letter to FIFA and the CAF. “This makes it possible for CAF to generate revenue and commercialize all rights in AFCON to invest fully in the development of African football. Our clubs are gladly committed to this solidarity plan. But with that in mind, we Do not expect FIFA and the CAF to make separate decisions.”

The first African Cup in the era of the pandemic will improve test quality and marketability, promises CAF President Patrice Motsepe.

“There are competitions all over the world with challenges but we have to be more optimistic,” said Motsepe, who became the head of African football this year.

Despite their optimism, it is likely that African football will be ready for a tournament that will end without serious problems. There was a battle even before the virus to prepare the Central African nation for its first major sporting event since 1972.

Cameroon was initially due to host the 2019 African Cup, but was pulled from that tournament due to problems with its preparations and given a second chance in 2021. Then, the event was pushed back a year due to the pandemic.

Now the virus has forced an expanded host country, which is still grappling with the basics of preparing stadiums, to take on the added challenge of not becoming a virus super-spreader, with Africa’s most popular sporting event.

To satisfy the Cameroonian authorities, the CAF has agreed that only fully vaccinated fans will be allowed to participate in games who have evidence of negative COVID-19 tests.

The pharmaceutical company UNILAB has been appointed to oversee the testing of players to reduce the spread of the virus among the 24 teams. The CAF said that there will be screening at every stadium, training ground and tournament venue.

The ban for fans was a deal-breaker for the Cameroonian government, but it is set to skip as many as 52 games a month to proceed in almost empty stadiums.

Less than 3% of Cameroon’s 26 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning that only a small number have been vaccinated since hosting the African Cup of Nations half a century ago. Will be allowed to watch the biggest sporting moment of the country.

The football-crazed West and Central African countries around Cameroon also have vaccination rates below 10%, so many other fans won’t make the trip.

With the virus in stadiums and problems spreading beyond fans, Cameroon has done the right thing to prepare stadiums.

The main Olembe Stadium, which will host the inaugural game between Cameroon and Burkina Faso and the final on 6 February, is undergoing a $370 million revamp, but has yet to officially open. It was so behind schedule last month that CAF threatened to go ahead with the opening game.

“This will be unfortunate for the Organizing Committee, for the CAF and for Cameroon,” CAF Secretary General Veron Mosengo-Omba wrote in a letter to Cameroon’s organizing committee.

Cameroon has also missed deadlines on other stadiums.

There is also a violent insurgency in the country’s southwestern region, where militias have fought for years to create a separate state near Limbe, one of the tournament’s five host cities. Last month, an explosion on a university campus about a mile from an official African Cup training ground injured 13 students.

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Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Harris reported from London.

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More Associated Press Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/ Associated Press_Sports

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