The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon has been switched to January 2022 due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said the event – which had already been moved from July to January of 2021 – will be shifted back a year because of postponements in the qualification campaign.
The CAF has also announced that the continent’s secondary national team tournament, the African Nations Championship, which was postponed in April, will now be played in Cameroon in January 2021.
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations had originally been scheduled for June-July 2021, but earlier this year it was decided to switch the 24-team tournament to January to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season. The move to January 2022 means the tournament will be held in the same year as the FIFA World Cup, although Qatar 2022 will take place at the end of the year rather than in the tournament’s usual summer slot.
CAF president Ahmad Ahmad said: “The CAF Executive Committee is satisfied with the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment towards the hosting of the two competitions. Cameroon is ready to host either competition and are within schedule.”
Cameroon was initially given hosting rights to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in 2014, however a subsequent decision to expand the competition from 16 to 24 teams for the 2019 event led to significant infrastructure challenges for host nations.
Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights for 2019 amid delays in stadium construction and handed the 2021 tournament. Even now, the main Paul Biya Stadium in capital city Yaounde is not complete, despite work beginning on the project in 2017.
The under-construction, 60,000-capacity Paul Biya Stadium is due to host the event’s opening ceremony, opening match and final. Matches will be played at five other stadiums: Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde and arenas in Douala, Limbe, Garoua and Bafoussam.
Paul Biya Stadium, named after Cameroon’s long-serving president, was due to be completed last December, but conflict with construction firm Piccini and its subsequent replacement by MAGIL Construction has led to further delays.
The stadium is part of a complex that also includes two training stadiums with 1,000 seats each, a gymnasium, handball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, an Olympic swimming pool, a five-star hotel with 70 rooms, a shopping mall, a museum and a cinema. The 84-acre complex is in the Olembe neighborhood in Yaounde, some 13km from the city centre.
Meanwhile, CAF said the 2020 Women’s Cup of Nations, which had no host in place, has been cancelled due to “challenging conditions”. However, the Confederation added that a new club competition, the Women’s Champions League, will be launched next year.
The 2019-20 seasons of CAF’s men’s club competitions, the Champions League and Confederation Cup, will resume in September with a Final Four format. Morocco will host the Final Four for the Confederation Cup, while a venue for the Champions League tournament has yet to be decided. Cameroon was also scheduled to host the Champions League final in Doualla in May.