CAF set to effect change in AFCON format and timing

Recently elected president of the African Football Confederation (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad gives a speech during ...
(FILE0Recently elected president of the African Football Confederation (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad gives a speech during the first ever African Football Symposium in Skhirat, on the outskirts of the Moroccan capital, on July 18, 2017. Delegates from all CAF's 55 member federations, coaches, retired players as well as top football officials from FIFA are in the Moroccan city of Rabat to discuss , among other issues, the future of African Cup of Nations, including its format and timing. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON), CAF’s biggest competition, is set for expansion from the current 16 to 24 teams, as officials also mull the possibility of shifting the biennial event from January to July.

A working committee including national team’s coaches, former players and technical experts in the ongoing CAF symposium in Rabat agreed on the recommendations on Monday.

The CAF Executive Committee will vote to have it formalized on Thursday, pending the official announcement during the Extraordinary Congress on Friday.

The committee also agreed to retain the current two-year cycle for AFCON, which happens in an odd year to avoid clashing with the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European championships.

According to the committee, the decision is based on increasing the competition revenues and enhancing its inclusivity.

Citizen Digital has learnt former Ghana international Abedi Pele, the father of the Black Stars duo Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew, was among the stakeholders who championed for a shift to a four-year cycle before his proposal was shot down.

According to Pele, African players find it difficult to balance national and club duty loyalty when continental championships come around much often.

Pele cited comments from English Premier League (EPL) managers to advocate for the failed proposal, including Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.

Details of when the change will be effected are yet to be furnished, and will be made public after a CAF technical committee concludes polishing on the development.

Those opposed to an eight-team expansion fear the tournament could lose its competitiveness, while proponents argue it gives an opportunity for teams with lesser pedigree to compete in the finals.

The proposal comes barely months after FIFA passed an increase of World Cup size to 48 teams.

This means only 30 countries would be locked out of every AFCON edition. The burden of host nation also increases, with more delegations to fend for increasing.

The Qualifiers’ format will also have to be amended once the resolution is made.

Differences in climatic conditions has emerged key in triggering a change in AFCON dates to June and/or July as most of the African countries especially in the East and West experience heavy rainfalls while the continent’s Northern parts experience scorching heat at the time.

-Jacob Icia is reporting from Rabat, Morocco.

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