Finally leagues across Europe are breathing a sigh of relief, after CAF executive committee announced on Thursday that AFCON competition will move from January to July. Change of period is effective for the next tournament to be hosted by Cameroon in two years’ time, and it will be expanded to 24 teams instead 16.
Africa’s premier biennial football tournament AFCON has been customarily hosted in January and February, causing major difficulties for coaches and league’s across Europe. The tournament timing has always put a strain between clubs and players, having some teams refusing to release their players during January, as this is a peak period for European teams vying for championship in their respective domestic leagues. Clubs are always unwilling to let key players go for at least 30 days or so during peak time.
The change of dates is to be in sync with the European season, to avoid matters of club vs country which plagued the tournament in recent years resulting in countries sending second string squads, due to unavailability of players because the competition fell outside FIFA sanctioned dates.
Bravo the quality of football at AFCON is surely going to improve, which ultimately means more revenue from sponsors, fans will flock to the stadiums in numbers and that’s a great picture for television.
Believe it or not most foreign leagues are dominated by star African footballers, and this clubs pay astronomical amounts of money in salaries to these players to ply their duties and win them bragging rights with trophies. For instance at this years AFCON out of 368 players that were involved 64% ply their trade in Europe, 28% in Africa followed by Asia (28%) and the Americas (1%).
Liverpool dealt a major blow towards their tittle race when manager Jürgen Klopp was forced to omit Cameroonian Joel Matip from match teams in run up to the hotly contested EPL race fearing a possible FIFA ban. Joel Matip had been called up for the Indomitable Lions team to feature at AFCON 2017.
Matip claimed to have retired from international footballing matters, however as per FIFA rules, he should have submitted documents to his respective FA to inform them.
FIFA ruling states that “any divergent agreement between a player and a club is prohibited,” though that “associations wishing to call up a player who is playing abroad must notify the player in writing at least 15 days before the day of the match for which he is required.
“The player’s club shall also be informed in writing at the same time. The club must confirm the release of the player within the following six days.
“Should he wish not to be called up for a certain match or matches or for a certain period of time, he must inform the association of which he is a national, in writing, of his intention before being called up.
“Furthermore, only the player himself is entitled to renounce representing his national team. This declaration shall be submitted by the player to the association concerned in writing.”
Cat fights of this nature are never to be seen again, player will be more willing to represent their countries without jeopardising club football commitments.
Wings of change are creeping in within CAF executive committee led by President Ahmad Ahmad. His stance to change the status quo at CAF is beginning to bear fruit, however there’ still a long way to go turn the wheel completely around. Next on CAF exco agenda is to bring AFCON TV rights back to the motherland, we have broadcasters such as SABC, Supersport et al that are equal to the task of being the tournament to every citizen of Africa.