Ahmad: "The postponement of CAN 2021 is the direct consequence of the coronavirus"

The president of the African Football Confederation Ahmad Ahmad, during a press conference before the start of the CAN, on June 20, 2019 in Cairo. MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP

Text by: Annie Gasnier Follow | Antoine Grognet Follow

The next African Cup of Nations (CAN 2021) has been postponed to January 2022 and the next African Nations Championship has taken the place of CAN 2021 in the African football calendar. The president of the African Football Confederation, Malgache Ahmad, came to explain these decisions in Radio Foot Internationale, this June 30, 2020.


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RFI: President Ahmad, the African Cup of Nations 2021 will finally take place in January 2022. Was this postponement inevitable ?

Ahmad: This is a direct result of the coronavirus. This prevented us from organizing the qualifications for this competition. There are four playoff days left.

And then the CAN is not just a football party. It is also a great African festival. So we didn't want to take the risk of organizing it with empty stadiums. Especially since we are left with a lack of visibility on the continent. In June, the cases of Covid-19 increase day by day, which is not the case on other continents

With all these elements, and after having discussed with all the stakeholders of African football as well as the Cameroonian authorities, we gathered today to take this decision and thus preserve the African Cup of Nations.

Cameroonians have already invested billions of CFA francs to host the African Cup of Nations. What was the reaction of the government of Cameroon when you announced this postponement to them ?

It was precisely to preserve their huge investments that, by mutual agreement with them, we made this decision. But not only with them. There are also business partners.

Have you thought about trying to finish the last four days of CAN 2021 qualifying in the months of October and November 2020 only ?

Yes, we have taken all these elements into account, but we must not forget that, so far, we do not know when the African airlines will resume their flights. […] Even if we agreed in principle on the international calendar, during the last Fifa Council, the President of Fifa always specified that everything remained flexible. Because we live in a new period during which we do not control things.

In place of CAN 2021, next January in Cameroon, there will therefore be the next African Nations Championship (CHAN 2020) which was to take place in April. You are offering this competition to Cameroonians.

Exact ! I have already informed the Cameroonian authorities. Because, as you know, for each decision taken, we discuss with the stakeholders. I can guarantee you that everything we have decided has always been done by mutual agreement with the Cameroonian government.

When you decided, in 2017, that the African Cups of Nations would now take place in June, everyone considered that it was good for Fifa and Europe. Especially since the next three final phases were already planned in countries - Cameroon for 2019, Côte d'Ivoire for 2021 and Guinea for 2023 - where June corresponds to the rainy season. Has not constantly changing dates for the CAN not weakened CAF in the eyes of FIFA in particular ?

I do not know if you kept the recording of the press conference that I hosted after the symposium in Morocco. But I always said that this decision [to play in June, Editor's note] was subject to the location of the CAN. […]

And then, why always speculate? We thought that the CAN 2019 would take place in Cameroon and it took place in June in Egypt. Today, we are talking about CAN 2021 which will take place in January 2022 in Cameroon. Do not rush and do not speculate. Wait until CAN 2023 arrives and we will see.

And then we did not choose it [that Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea, be hosts of the CAN, Editor's note] . We inherited this situation and we assume it in the name of the continuity of the administration of CAF. […] When we arrived, we listened to people and then we made the decisions based on what the stakeholders of African football wanted.

Can there be a CAN in January 2023 in Côte d'Ivoire, while there is a CAN in 2022 and a World Cup in late 2022 in Qatar?

I am not one of the managers who speculate too much. I move forward then I make the necessary decisions with my peers. […]

When we see all the difficulties that CAF has faced and the fact that FIFA pushes for a CAN every 4 years, does this option remain taboo ?

We do what people want, what Africa wants. I am here as an African leader. We, the members of the Executive Committee are elected by African associations. […] Can we not also ask a question: is it too much that African children, so young, return to their continent just for one month every two years? […]

The female CAN was not postponed like CAN 2021 or CHAN 2020. It was canceled.

Effectively. This is the result of a proposal from the Women's Football Commission which analyzed the situation. The playoffs cannot be held. And, initially, the women's CAN served as qualifiers for the Women's World Cup. However, since there is no World Cup in 2021, we said to ourselves “let's prepare our athletes through the clubs ” by organizing competitions like the Women's Champions League and CAN 2022 in preparation for the World Cup. 2023.

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Foot: CAN 2021 in Cameroon postponed to January 2022

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