Should AFCON 2021 Have Gone Ahead Even With the Dreaded Covid-19 Hitting Several Teams?

Should AFCON 2021 Have Gone Ahead Even With the Dreaded Covid-19 Hitting Several Teams?

Babajide Orevba
updated at April 12, 2023 at 7:54 PM
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CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo

More controversies for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, as the biennial showpiece returns amid the continued spread of the dreaded Covid-19, especially the Omicron variant.

It has been battle between clubs and nations over the release of players for fears of them being infected or getting injured, which could cost the clubs as the African showpiece comes in the peak of leagues across the European continent.

This 33rd edition of the tournament was originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021 but the Confederation of African Football announced on January 15 2021 that due to unfavourable climatic conditions during this period, the tournament would take place from January 9 to February 6, 2022.

AFCON 2021
AFCON 2021 scheduled between January 9 and February 6. Photo: Leadership
Source: UGC

Now expanding to 24-teams, the Cup of Nations is proving to be a strain on resources and it was eventually moved to kick-off on January 9, 2022.

Covid-19 threatens AFCON

The rising Covid cases have now forced CAF to announce stricter measures and issue new policies on how the tournament will take place.

With just days into the competition, there is a surging number of cases of Covid-19 among teams – Gabon captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Senegal’s duo Edouard Mendyy and Kalidou Koulibaly have all tested positive for the virus.

Hours before the opener against host Cameroon, coach Kamou Malo and four other Burkina Faso players have returned a positive result for Covid-19.

The Burkinabè delegation are disputing the fact that the tests were not PCR tests and are calling for a second take. This gives a glimpse of what is to be expected in the competition scheduled to run until February 6.

CAF’s position and the rules

The African football body says matches would go on provided teams have 11 players available, should they be depleted by Covid-19 cases.

The rules have been clarified about how teams will cope with absentees due to Covid-19 as CAF adds that any country that does not have a minimum of 11 players available will be considered to have lost the match 0-2, Sky Sports reports.

Five substitutes would be accorded each team and there will be only three opportunities to make all the changes.

During the knockout stage, one more substitution would be allowed for each team if their match extends into extra time.

Covid-19 status in host country Cameroon

In a country like Cameroon, where less than three percent of the population of 26 million are fully vaccinated, only a small minority of people are therefore eligible to witness the tournament first-hand.

CAF says crowds will be limited to 60 percent of a stadium's capacity, or 80 percent for games involving host nation Cameroon.

How safe is Garoua, the host City of the Super Eagles

Nigerian journalist, Abayomi Ademetan, disclosed that watching matches in the city is safe following efforts from CAF and the organizers. He said:

"No situation exists in life in which we are 100% safe. From eye witnesses, I would say that watching matches in Garoua is much safer, because you are watching in controlled surroundings, in which CAF and the local organisers have invested a lot of effort to make the circumstances safer.
"CAF doesn't have the sole responsibility either for spectators or for travel. It's always a shared responsibility with the authorities as well as the individuals to respect all mitigation measures put in place for them.
"I could remember the journey from Yola to Garuoa we where mandated to use the nose masks and observe Covid-19 protocols. It was a fascinating trip to Northern Cameroon."

AFCON winner to pocket to $5 million

Sports Brief earlier reported that the competition’s prize money was increased from $4.5 million to $5 million, representing an increase of about 11 percent.

The runners-up will also get 2.75 million dollars in prize money, up from 2.5 million dollars and an increase of 10 percent and Semi-Finalists will get 2.2 million dollars which is an increase of 200,000 dollars.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Committee made this decision on Friday January 7 after a meeting of its members before the start of Africa’s flagship football competition.

Babajide Orevba photo
Babajide Orevba
Babajide Orevba is a CAF accredited Nigerian journalist and HOD of the Local Desk with over 10 years of experience in media landscape.He studied NCE Political Science/Social Studies, AOCOED.