“We can’t do anything and we will lose several of our players for a month. That it has passed to January is a real catastrophe for us “, said Liverpool’s German manager Jürgen Klopp, in reference to the fact that from the next date his team will be left without two members of his offensive trident, the Senegalese healthy mane and the egyptian Mohamed Salah, in addition to the Guinean steering wheel Naby Keita, who will go to play for their national teams in the Africa Cup of Nations.
This tournament, which will take place in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, it was scheduled for last june, when it was not on the calendar with the European tournaments, but had to be suspended due to epidemic and weather conditions, something that was accepted by UEFA and FIFA, although both entities silently expected a new postponement due to the new wave from Coronavirus (In fact, only five percent of the Cameroonian population has both doses of the vaccine). But not only did it never arrive, but on December 22, the calendar was confirmed by the president of the African Confederation (CAF), the South African Patrice Motsepe, the head of the organizing federation, the former forward of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter and Mallorca Samuel Eto’o.
Lionel Messi’s former teammate at Barcelona was essential for the Africa Cup to take place by reassuring the CAF with the security measures that will be taken for the 52 games that must be played in total, with the requirement that all attendees present the double vaccination certificate and a PCR test lasting no more than 72 hours or an antigen test lasting no more than 24 hours. The most that FIFA could do, given the general resignation of the Europeans, was to postpone the date of the start of the concentration of the teams from December 27 to January 3, so that at least some players can participate in a The most important date of the English Premier League, the only one of the big tournaments that continues to be played during this winter break.
In reality, nothing was easy for this Cup. Cameroon obtained the headquarters to organize the Africa Cup on September 20, 2014 in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, but for 2019 and not for 2021, which corresponded to Ivory Coast, But on November 30, 2018, CAF made a change and gave Egypt the chance, and then postponed the other organizers for two years: Cameroon went to 2021, the Ivory Coast to 2023 and Guinea to 2025.
The Africa Cup, which will begin on January 9 with the match between Cameroon and Burkina Faso, It will include a phase of six groups of four teams, of which the first two and the best four third parties will go to the round of 16 and from there onwards it will be played by direct elimination towards the final in the newly built Paul Biva stadium -Also the scene of the opening match-, with a capacity for 60,000 spectators located in Olembé, in the suburbs of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon since 1922, with almost two and a half million inhabitants according to the last census of 2012.
According to the draw carried out on August 17, the group A It will be made up of Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde, the B It will include Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi; the C, for Morocco, Ghana, Comoros and Gabon; the D, for Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bisau; the E, for Algeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast; Y el F, for Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and the Gambia.
The fact that the tournament is played in January, in the middle of the season, caused a lot of problems in the top five European leagues, some of them, used to hiring many players from the African continent. In the case of english Premier League, up to fifteen teams will lose members of their roster during part of January. “We must think as a club and make decisions, and know that for four weeks we will not be able to count on them,” said Klopp, the coach of Liverpool, one of the most affected. I cannot respect the Africa Cup any more, it is a very interesting tournament, but being played in the middle of the season is an obvious problem. Having passed it to January is a real catastrophe for us ”.
And Liverpool will lose Wrong (He wants to replace him by hiring the rising Colombian extreme of Porto, Luis Díaz-), Mané and Keita; Chelsea will be left without their starting goalkeeper, Senegalese Édouard Mendy, the Manchester City, without his Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez; the Arsenal will have several casualties like Tomas Partey (Ghana), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), and forwards Pierre Emerick Aboumeyang (Gabon) and Nicolás Pepé (Ivory Coast); the Crystal Palace without the Ivorians Wilfried Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyaté. Just like him Manchester United will have to do without two other Ivorians, Eric Baily and Amad Diallo, the Leicester of the Nigerian Kelechi Iheanacho; and Watford, by Senegalese Ismaila Sarr.
If the English Premier League loses 39 players who are going to the Africa Cup, the Italian series A will run out of 22. Among them, the Senegalese central scorer of Napoli, Kalidou Koulibaly, the Ivorian midfielder of Milan, Franck Kessie and the Senegalese forward of Cágliari, Keita Baldé.
For its part, the Spanish League will lose eleven players, that they will be left without at least two tournament dates and two Copa del Rey keys just for participating in the group stage of the Africa Cup but if they reach the final they could miss up to four tournament dates and even the quarterfinals of the cup.
The most affected is the Villarreal, which will not be able to count on Aissa Mandi (Algeria), Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast) Samuel Chukweze (Nigeria) and Boulaye Dia (Senegal), as well as the Sevilla will lose his three Moroccans, goalkeeper Yassine Bono, and forwards Munir El Haddadi and Youssef En Nesyri, while another Moroccan, Abde, is trying to be convinced by the Barcelona not to leave. Cadiz pierde a Akapo (Guinea Ecuatorial), Mallorca a Baba (Ghana) y Alavés a Loum (Senegal).
In the Second Division, Kenneth Omerou (Leganés) and Umar Sadiq (Almería), both summoned by Nigeria, can be lost from date 23 to 26, depending on how their teams do.
The most affected of the five strongest leagues is, without a doubt, the French, that for a cultural and traditional issue is the one that most Africans hire for their teams and that he will lose 51 players. Among them are Moroccan right-back Achraf Hakimi, defender Abdou Dialló and midfielder Idrissa Gueyé, both Senegalese, and Olympique Lyonnais striker Karl Toko Ekambi.
In Netherlands, Ajax will have to resign himself to letting go for a month his great Ivorian scorer Sebastien Haller (author of ten goals in six games in the Champions League group stage), and in the Bundesliga, el Bayern Munich he will have to do the same with forward Eric Choupo-Moting.
Another novelty of the Africa Cup will be the performance of the women’s referee quartet, composed of a referee, two assistants and an assistant in the VAR as happened in the 2019 African U-17, as part of a total of 24 referees, 31 assistants and 8 VARs from the 36 countries of the continent. The main referee will be the Rwandan Salima Mukasanga, The two assistants will be the Cameroonian Carine Atemzabong and the Moroccan Fatiha Jermoumi, and the VAR assistant will also be from Morocco, Bouchra Karboubi, and the four will always be part of the same team for the matches.
There will also be, as in the last Eurocopa and Copa América, two invited referees from another confederation, in this case from Concacaf (North, Central America and the Caribbean), the Guatemalan Mario Escobar as the main referee, and the Mexican Fernando Guerrero, as assistant to the VAR.