The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Friday that the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations have been postponed. The governing body said fixtures have been postponed “until further notice”.
The governing body had initially maintained that fixtures will go ahead as scheduled, saying on Wednesday: “According to (the) World Health Organisation, no African country till date has been declared a high risk. Consequently, Caf has decided to maintain the schedule of all competitions.”
With governments in some African countries where qualifiers are scheduled declaring that mass gatherings – which includes sporting events – cannot be held, CAF had little choice but to postpone the qualifiers.
Egypt, Algeria, South Africa and Senegal are some of the African countries where ten or more cases have been confirmed. The problem, however, is the risk posed by players and fans from Europe – the so-called centre of the pandemic – who will return home to during the qualifiers.
In a statement released on Friday, CAF said:
Following the growing concerns of the COVID-19 virus and the declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) describing it as pandemic, CAF has decided to postpone the following competitions until further notice:
Total AFCON 2021 Qualifiers: Match Day 3 and 4 of the qualifiers scheduled for 25 – 31 March 2020;
FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup Qualifiers: scheduled for 20 – 22 March 2020 and 27- 29 March 2020;
Total Women’s AFCON 2020 Qualifiers: scheduled for 8-14 April 2020.
A new schedule shall be announced in due time.
Several European leagues, including the English Premier League, also suspended fixtures in the last week in the wake of the outbreak.
As the global outbreak of COVID-19 continues, we will be publishing – and updating – a series of articles looking at how the pandemic is impacting various sporting events. You can find all the updates on the impact of the coronavirus on various sporting events around the world here.