Africa Cup of Nations to kick off on January 9 in Cameroon


Johannesburg (AFP) – The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be staged in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6 next year, a Confederation of African Football (CAF) official confirmed on Thursday.

A virtual executive committee meeting chaired by recently elected president Patrice Motsepe from South Africa also decided that a draw to divide the 24 qualifiers into six groups will be held on June 25.

Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have qualified.

The remaining place rests between Benin and Sierra Leone, whose fixture in Freetown this week did not take place because the visitors challenged Covid-19 results after five of their key players tested positive.

A CAF statement said the match had been rearranged for the May 31-June 15 international window, following which Sierra Leone launched an appeal against that decision.

The Sierra Leone Football Association said the appeal was based on the “failure (of Benin) to report for a match and/or refusal to play”.

Sierra Leone trail Benin by three points in Group L and must win to replace them in the second qualifying place and go to the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1996.

Pre-match Covid-19 tests are currently performed in CAF competitions by the host national team or club and there have been numerous allegations of false positive results depriving opponents of stars.

The CAF meeting acknowledged that having hosts in charge of testing was problematic and is planning, with World Health Organization (WHO) assistance, to use independent medical staff instead.

Concern was also expressed by the executive at the degradation of football infrastructure in many African countries, highlighting a long-standing problem of poor stadium maintenance.

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