English Premier League clubs reliefed with new date for AFCON

Cameroon’s Benjamin Moukandjo lifting the trophy after winning the African Cup of Nations final soccer match between Egypt and Cameroon in 2017 in Gabon

The decision of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to change the date for the Africa Cup of Nations has come as a huge relief to English Premier League clubs considering the number of Africa players who leave the Premier League for the AFCON every tournament year.

The African Nations Cup will be switched to the summer and expanded to include 24 countries from 2019, the Confederation of African Football has announced in Morocco on Thursday, 20th July, 2017.

The move is a soothing news to the Premier League and clubs across Europe as it means they will no longer lose players during the middle of the season.

The tournament is currently staged in January and February and contested by 16 teams, but the new resolution at the recent CAF Football Symposium in Morocco means the number will increase by eight and be held during June and July from 2019.

CAF said in a statement: “A consensus emerged on a number of issues raised by the working groups. Increasing the Africa Cup of Nations to 24 teams as of the 2019 edition, and the tournament will now be held in the months of June and July.

“The competition will however remain a biennial event (every two years), odd years and exclusively held on African soil with African national teams.”

English and European clubs have always been in a tango with Africa countries during the AFCON leading to many players failing to turn up for the continent’s flagship football fiesta.

Ghana’s Michael Essien, then playing for Chelsea, missed out of the Afcon in 2006 which was a major blow to the West African giants while Cameroon missed eight key players in the build up to the 2017 Afcon due to club commitment.

During the 2017 edition, Premier League clubs saw several of their key players leave for the tournament in Gabon between January 14 and February 5.

Arsenal saw Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) join up with his national side while Liverpool missed Senegalese forward Sadio Mane and Manchester United’s Eric Bailly (Ivory coast) was also unavailable for his club.

Leicester could have done with the services of forwards Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani (both Algeria) and Daniel Amartey (Ghana) as their title defence faltered.

Chelsea, who went on to be crowned Premier League champions, and Tottenham, who finished runners-up, had no players missing.


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