Africa Cup of Nations will go on amid Omicron variant, CAF president Patrice Motsepe declares

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Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe has insisted that the Omicron variant of coronavirus would not stop the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) from going on in January.

The rearranged Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is scheduled to commence on January 9 and end on February 6, 2022, in Cameroon. It ought to have taken place in the summer of 2021 but had to be postponed until 2022 due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Unfortunately, a few months after the tournament, the Omicron variant of the virus started spreading from South Africa to other parts of the continent and some parts of the world which made some countries place restrictions on movement.

The rising cases of the virus forced the CAF president to hold a meeting with the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya. After the meeting, it was clear that the 24-team tournament would go ahead amid the pandemic.

“I’m going to be here on January 7 and I’m coming to watch football,” Motsepe said on Tuesday.

“I’m coming to watch on January 9 (the opening match between) Cameroon against Burkina Faso. I’ll also be around to see when the trophy is handed over.”

Africa Cup of Nations will go on amid Omicron variant, CAF president Patrice Motsepe declares
Algeria are defending champions of Africa Cup of Nations.

Now that the CAF president has made it clear that the Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead, it is left for the countries involved to convince European clubs to release their players on time for the tournament.

Before now, the European Club Association wondered how the tournament would be held safely amid the Omicron variant of the virus. If the association has its way, it would prevent African players playing in European clubs from participating in the tournament.

To minimize the fear of the association concerning the safety of players, the CAF president has earlier noted that participants in the biannual tournament would be subjected to strict testing measures.

While speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the CAF president said spectators would have to show proof of negative PCR tests before they would be allowed into the stadium during the tournament.

“We must always identify problems and challenges, and not shy away from them. We must have the confidence and the belief that we can overcome them,” he said.

“Nobody will be allowed into the stadium without a (negative) PCR test. We will have to protect the fans that are there. Of course, there will be concerns about fake tests going around, but we are dealing with those issues.

“We have to have confidence and belief in ourselves as Africans. And we have to have confidence and belief that we can host a very successful Nations Cup in Cameroon.”

Africa Cup of Nations 2022 draw and important dates

Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
Africa Cup of Nations trophy.

The winner of the last edition of the tournament which took place in 2019, Algeria, are in Group E alongside one of the deadliest teams in the continent, Ivory Coast. Other teams in the group are Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The host country, Cameroon, are in Group A alongside Burkina Faso, Cape Verde Islands, and Ethiopia.

Premier League stars like Sadio Mane of Liverpool and goalkeeper Mendy of Chelsea will represent Senegal in Group B. The group also contains Guinea, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

Ghana are paired with Comoros Islands, Gabon, and Morocco in Group C of the tournament.

Group D has Africa giants like Egypt and Nigeria. The other two teams in the group are Guinea Bissau and Sudan.

While in Group F, Tunisia will battle with Gambia, Mali, and Mauritania.

Meanwhile, all the group stage games will take place between 9 and 20 January 2022. The tournament’s round of 16 will take place between 23 and 26 January 2022. January 29 and 30 will be the period for the quarter-finals.

On February 2 and 3 the semi-finals of the tournament will take place. While the final and third-place play-off of the tournament will hold on February 6.

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