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Uncertainty hangs over the holding of the competition, scheduled for Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, 2022. France 24 takes stock of the situation.
Could the CAN in Cameroon be in danger? This is neither the first rumor, nor probably the last, but the resurgence of health measures due to the emergence of the Omicron variant forces us to take seriously the danger that hangs over the biggest African football competition which is to take place from January 9 to February 6.
A “reflection is engaged”
Information, published Wednesday December 15 by the RMC Sports channel, made a big splash: a reflection is underway within the African Football Confederation (CAF) on the cancellation of the CAN in Cameroon.
Still according to our colleagues, several national coaches have heard about this possibility, without any official decision being announced to them for the moment.
The Covid pandemic and the spread of the Omicron variant on the African continent made this reflection necessary. Indeed, at a time when health measures are multiplying across the planet, CAF would be crazy not to at least prepare a way out. However, there is currently no official decision on the matter.
European clubs worry and threaten
In addition, CAF must face pressure from European clubs, traditionally reluctant to do without their African internationals for a long period in winter, although the statutes of Fifa oblige them to do so.
On the front line, the English clubs whose country is currently affected by a major wave of Covid. The African players called up by their selection should thus undergo a quarantine on their return to the United Kingdom, which would deprive the clubs of their players for a longer period.
They made themselves heard by the voice of the European Association of Clubs (ECA) which wrote to CAF a letter on December 10 and whose content was revealed on December 15: the clubs threaten to detain players in the event lack of certainty about health protocols and disproportionate quarantine on return.
“To our knowledge, the African Football Confederation has not yet made public a suitable medical and operational protocol for the CAN tournament, in the absence of which the clubs will not be able to release their players for the tournament” , can we read in this email sent last Friday to Fifa.
In addition to the tournament health protocol, the ECA points to the risk of an absence of internationals longer than the planned availability period, due to the “quarantines and travel restrictions” linked in particular to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
According to the relaxed rules for the release of internationals, confirmed several times by Fifa since August 2020, clubs can retain their players if “a quarantine of at least five days is mandatory from the arrival” at the place “where is supposed to play in the match of the player’s “national team, or at the club’s venue on his return.
CAF has a round back
Asked by AFP, the African Football Confederation first referred to a press release published on Wednesday morning in which Véron Mosengo-Omba, CAF general secretary, urges the Cameroonian organizing committee to “work day and night in order to s ‘ensure that everything is in place for the opening match on January 9, 2022 “.
“The ECA is not the employer of the players selected for the CAN, has no contractual relationship with them, therefore cannot prohibit their release”, added Véron Mosengo-Omba in the evening to the AFP.
In addition, he was surprised at the requirements concerning the health protocol, stressing that “Europe is more affected than Africa” by the current wave of Covid-19 and yet retains “full stages”.
Cameroon wants to be reassuring
Asked by AFP, an anonymous senior leader of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fécafoot) described these speculations as “fake news”.
Questioned by France 24, Doctor Yap Boum, in charge of health coordination of the CAN, is also reassuring: “Cameroon has the sequencing capacities to detect the variant. In addition, our data prove that Cameroon has passed the third wave and there are no more than 50 new cases per day “, explains the professor. “We are controlling the epidemic.”
“The epidemic is under control” in Cameroon
Finally, CAF announced the holding of a press conference on Thursday, December 16, where the health protocol aimed at reassuring all parties concerned should be revealed.