Africa ponders Cup of Nations changes in key symposium

July 18, 2017
Source: BBC
Africa ponders Cup of Nations changes in key symposium

The format and timing of the Africa Cup of Nations is up for discussion as a two-day symposium on the continental game's future has begun in Morocco.

The Nations Cup's timing in January and February has long angered clubs in Europe, where many Africans play.

The biennial finals could also be boosted from 16 teams to 24.

"That is the first thing to talk about - we can't get away from it," said Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad.

"We have already had a lot of suggestions," the Malagasy said in his opening address.

Ahead of this year's Nations Cup in Gabon, an unprecedented number of players turned down call-ups to stay with their clubs.

This included seven Cameroonians who refused to turn out for the team that eventually won the title.

Every two years, a club-versus-country row breaks out as European clubs complain about losing players during a crucial stage of the season to the Nations Cup.

Compounding the clubs' concerns is the fact that their players often come back fatigued from Africa's flagship sporting event.

Under previous president Issa Hayatou, Caf argued that the weather in many parts of Africa meant the tournament had to be staged at the start of the year.

Hayatou consistently rejected suggestions of a move to June, saying the weather then was too hot in northern Africa, too wet in the west and centre and too cold in the south.

Many believed his view was as much about climatic conditions as not bowing to pressure from Europe because African national teams and clubs play regularly during June without adverse effects.

A move to a tournament in June and July is also set to be discussed in the Moroccan capital Rabat - as is the less likely possibility of staging the final every four, rather than two, years.

Ahmad also wants to review rules on hosting the finals, which are proving increasingly prohibitive and reducing the number of potential candidates.

He has already suggested that co-hosting would allow Caf to consider proposals to increase the number of teams at the finals to 24.

Ahmad promised a blanket review of the African game when he successfully stood for the Caf presidency in March.

"Never before has something like this been organised in Africa," he told the assembled 200 delegates prior to the start of a series of workshops.

"We are here for a historic chapter and to effect great changes. These are decisions that will determine the future of our game.

"My ambition is to effect profound transformation of Caf and I'm personally determined to see it through with all the members," Ahmad said in his opening address.

In addition to the FA presidents, secretary generals and coaches of each African nation, a host of former stars have also been invited to give their views - as per Ahmad's election manifesto.

The invited include Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria, Cameroonians Samuel Eto'o, Geremi and Joseph-Antoine Bell, Hossam Hassan of Egypt, Rabah Madjer of Algeria and Morocco's Badou Zaki.

Leading national coaches DR Congo's Florent Ibenge, Herve Renard of Morocco and African veteran Claude LeRoy, the Frenchman who currently leads Togo, have also been invited.

"I feel this could be a crucial day for African football," said Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who is also in attendance.

"All the stakeholders interested in this beautiful game have to work to develop African football and bring it to where it belongs, at the top of world football."