How COVID-19 can affect November’s 2021 AFCON qualifiers


The third and fourth matches of the qualifying for the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations are set to be played over the next week.

As with all sport around the world at the moment the way the matches are held will be affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Nations Cup finals have already been delayed by a year and will now take place in 2022 in Cameroon.

BBC Sport Africa has been looking at some areas that will be affected.

Release of players

In normal circumstances clubs around the globe are required by Fifa regulations to release their players for national team duty even if that person is injured.

In the past club’s and national associations have come to agreements over the availability of specific players for certain matches.

However if there is no such resolution players can end up being banned from playing for their clubs in some of the games after the international break.

Concerns caused by the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic is leading to some clubs being reluctant to allow their players to travel.

The Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet has complained that Polish side Gornik Zabrze have said that Alasana Manneh will not be allowed to join up with the Scorpions.

BBC Sport Africa contacted the club for a comment on the reasons Manneh was not being released but did not receive a reply.

Saintfiet was left frustrated by Italian club AS Roma, who on Friday had said that reserve-team player Ebrima Darboe could join the Scorpions after initially refusing to release him, only for him to not turn-up for the back-to-back games against Gabon.

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The Fifa logo

One Roma player that will not be travelling is Guinea’s Amadou Diawara after the country’s football federation tweeted that he has tested positive of Covid-19.

He has been replaced in the squad for the games against Chad by Ibrahima Camara, who plays in Portugal for Moreirense.

Guinea’s coach Didier Six has also questioned the amendments made by Fifa

and how they are being implemented.

Fifa’s temporary amendments “apply to all international windows for men’s football, women’s football, and futsal scheduled for the remainder of 2020.”

The Fifa amendments on the release players during Covid-19

Caf guidelines

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has released its own guidelines

on how the qualifying games should be organised.

The amended regulations include provisions for countries to forfeit games if they are unable to travel for a match.

The Caf guidelines for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers during Covid-19

Can fans go to matches?

Caf’s most recent ruling on whether fans can go to matches was that “according to Caf’s Covid-19 protocol, all matches must be played behind closed doors, without spectators.

“However, if the government of the host Association wants spectators to be present, then the Association in question will need to obtain Caf’s approval.”

One nation that has managed to get the go ahead to allow fans in is Tanzania, whose Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar es Salaam will be at 50% capacity for the visit of Tunisia in Group J.

Nigeria had hoped to allow fans into see their qualifier against Sierra Leone in Benin City but that idea has since been rejected.

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Playing elsewhere

There were reports that Senegal were considering playing one of its back-to-back qualifiers against Guinea-Bissau somewhere in Europe in order to make travel easier for its players, however the idea was not pursued.

One tie that has been moved by mutual consent is Sao Tome e Principe giving up home advantage in their qualifiers after agreeing to play both games in South Africa.

Bafana Bafana will be the hosts for the qualifier in Durban on 13 November but then will not have to travel to Sao Tome e Principe as originally scheduled for a return match three days later.

Instead the South African Football Association announced that both games will be played in their country, which has well-constructed plans for sporting bio-bubbles to field teams.

It will also afford players from both sides the chance for a swift return to their European clubs without connecting through other African states.


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