Caf admits Wafcon and Afcon ‘scheduling nightmare’

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Image caption: Veron Mosengo-Omba was appointed as Caf’s general secretary in March 2021, having previously worked at Fifa

Organisers of Africa’s premier men’s and women’s international football tournaments have admitted they face a “scheduling nightmare”, but dates for forthcoming editions are closer to being agreed, the BBC has been told.
During a rare in-depth interview Veron Mosengo-Omba, general secretary of the Confederation of African Football (Caf), promised that an announcement on the 2024 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco would arrive by the end of this month – revealing there is a strong chance it could be switched to next year.
“We are supposed to play this year but we have teams engaged in the Olympics, so we have to find another date,” Mosengo-Omba explained to BBC Sport Africa.

“We are talking with Uefa because most of the players are playing in Europe, the European Club Association and also with Fifa in order to find [a] suitable date.”
Meanwhile, Mosengo-Omba confirmed that Caf could stage the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), also set to be hosted by Morocco, in early 2026 because of the timing of Fifa’s new 32-team Club World Cup in June and July next year.
“For the men, we need to make sure that the dates that we’ll be choosing will be in the interests of the players,” said the Swiss-Congolese, highlighting issues around the workload of the continent’s elite players.
“For this we need to balance different aspects and also discuss with our partners and then we complete [the dates]. Scheduling is a nightmare for everybody.”
Big dilemma for Women’s Nations Cup
Caf’s statutes say both iterations of the Nations Cup should be held once every two years – rather than once every four as is the case with most major championships organised by other confederations.
However, that puts pressure on the African game’s governing body to fit its competitions into an ever-more-crowded international calendar.
Qualifying for the 2024 Wafcon was completed last December, but deciding when to hold the 12-team finals is complicated by the fact that record nine-time winners Nigeria and Zambia will be participating in the Paris Olympics during July and August.
Desiree Ellis, coach of reigning continental champions South Africa, says the crowded schedule is evidence of rapid growth in the women’s game – but she remains critical of Caf’s handling of the situation.
“If it (Wafcon) is postponed or cancelled, it will be a huge, huge disappointment,” the 61-year-old told BBC Sport Africa, pointing out that the 2020 Nations Cup was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, unlike the men’s 2021 tournament which was merely postponed.
“The growth of women’s football over the last couple of years has really shot through the roof, especially on the African continent.
“Just communicate whether it’s happening or whether it’s not happening so we know how to prepare going forward.”
The growth of women’s football in Africa has been made clear this year by two record-breaking transfer fees paid for Zambian players.
In February, forward Rachel Kundananji set a new world record when joining American team Bay FC for $860,000 (£685,000) and the next month Copper Queens skipper Barbra Banda moved to fellow National Women’s Soccer League side Orlando Pride for $740,000 (£581,000).
Mosengo-Omba says Caf’s only option for scheduling Wafcon this year would involve playing it outside of an agreed international window – meaning club sides would not be compelled to release their stellar names.
“Do we play Women’s Afcon without our best players? This is something that personally I think is not good,” he said.
“We cannot come back by using only local (domestic-based) players. They are good, but the standard would not be the same.”
The alternative is a postponement until 2025.
Player welfare a factor in 2025 Afcon timing
IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES
Image caption: Record 12-time African club champions Al Ahly will play at the expanded Club World Cup next year – but also provide several players for the Egyptian national side
When it comes to the men’s Nations Cup, Caf’s “nightmare” has been caused by global governing body Fifa introducing its expanded Club World Cup.
The 32-team tournament will be played in the United States from 15 June to 13 July next year – dates which potentially could have been earmarked for the 2025 Afcon, with Caf having previously stated its aim of aligning its flagship competition with the European summer window.
“We have a problem that we’re still discussing now with the same stakeholders and partners: the European Club Association, Uefa and Fifa,” said Mosengo-Omba.
He denied that Fifa has pressured Caf not to hold Afcon at the same time as the Club World Cup – something that Concacaf, the continental confederation for North and Central America, has decided to do with its Gold Cup competition.
Fifa has been forced to defend its new addition to the football calendar after criticism from unions that players are being “pushed beyond their limits”.
“We can play after the Club World Cup, but is this good for the interests of the players who have played all the season and then they travel to America to play [and then] immediately come to play Afcon?” Mosengo-Omba continued.
“We have to put this in balance before [we] take a decision.”
Despite concerns around heat, the 2019 Nations Cup in Egypt was hosted in June and July that year and the 2021 and 2023 editions were also due to be staged around the same time of year to avoid the regular club versus country clash caused by the tournament’s traditional January-February time slot.
However, the 2021 tournament in Cameroon was pushed back to early 2022 because of the pandemic and weather concerns, while the 2023 tournament was held in Ivory Coast earlier this year to avoid the West African rainy season.
Despite Caf failing to meet its aim of aligning the past two tournaments with the European football calendar, Mosengo-Omba admits it could very well happen again in Morocco.
“If this is for the interests of the player, why not? Because we have to focus in terms of the player,” he said.
Meanwhile, the date for the qualifying draw for the 2025 Afcon is set to be announced after the next meeting of Caf’s executive committee.
Qualifiers are expected to be held in September, October and November this year.



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