The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) has been postponed by 12 months, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) confirmed in their Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The 33rd edition of the biennial tournament was due to begin in Cameroon on January 9, 2021, but has now been pushed back to January 2022 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the continent.
“After consultation with stakeholders and taking into consideration the current global situation, the tournament has been rescheduled for January 2022,” Caf confirmed in a statement. “The date for the final tournament and the remaining matches of the qualifiers will be communicated in due course.”
On Thursday, Fifa announced that September’s international football window would be canceled for all territories outside Europe and South America, denying Africa a critical window in which to play some of the outstanding four rounds of qualification ahead of the proposed January 2021 start date.
African football’s governing body has not announced whether the 34th edition of the tournament—scheduled for Ivory Coast in 2023—will also be pushed back.
While Caf could play some of the outstanding qualifiers in the October-November international window, this would impact the World Cup qualifying campaign, where the five qualifying teams must play in eight qualifiers before the Qatar tournament in late 2022.
Algeria are the reigning African champions, having defeated Senegal 1-0 in 2019 final in Cairo.
The Africa Cup of Nations was long-held during January and February, but moved to a June-July schedule ahead of the 2019 event, with newly elected president Ahmad Ahmad keen to avoid the club-vs-country disputes that often overshadowed a tournament being played during the European winter.
However, the 2021 tournament’s dates have already been moved once, with the original June-July 2021 dates brought forward to January due to the unfavorable climate in Cameroon during the summer months.
Caf also confirmed the 2020 African Nations Championship—the biennial tournament for home-based players—will be played next year, having originally been scheduled for April 2020.
“The CAF Executive Committee is satisfied with the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment towards the hosting of the two competitions,” added Ahmad, dispelling rumours that the Central African nation would be replaced as hosts. “Cameroon is ready to host either competition and are within schedule.”
The Chan—which was also due to be held in Cameroon—had been indefinitely postponed due to the onset of Covid-19.