Confederation of African Football (CAF) says all things being equal, the 2021 Afcon qualifiers will resume in June so that the final tournament can be held in January next year.
CAF acting general secretary Abdelmounaim Bah said this (GS) when he reaffirmed that there will not be any change in the 2021 Afcon final tournament programme.
In an interview with goal.com, Bah said CAF plans to organise the remaining qualifiers within the remaining Fifa international windows in 2020 which fall in June, September, October and November.
“For now, the African Cup of Nations is still scheduled for January to February 2021. The only reason we would shift Afcon would be a situation [Covid-19] that continues into year 2020 and if this current crisis does not allow us to play all qualification matches,” he said.
Malawi was supposed to play Burkina Faso back to back this month before playing South Sudan (away) in June and Uganda at home in September to wrap up the qualifiers.
CAF’s decision means the remaining qualifiers will have to be played on four match days, according to Bah.
“We still have four qualifying days to play and we can play them in two international windows. We have four at our disposal: June, September, October, November. At this point anything is possible. I f we can’t play match-days three and four in June, we will play them otherwise in September or October and we will play match days five and six in November,” he said.
However, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) GS Alfred Gunda said the situation is tricky because CAF is assuming that the coronavirus will improve by June.
“As the CAF acting GS has said, that is a projection. We are looking at that as a projection that by June we might have been cleared to play football. But in case we are not cleared, the challenge remains that there will be no football,” he said.
But Gunda said they will remain steadfast since CAF has planned to resume the qualifiers in June.
He sais: “At the moment in terms of our players’ preparations, we are encouraging that where session are still taking place like the case is in Malawi, they should continue training. We will continue monitoring our players.
“But in cases where there is a lockdown like in South Africa, the players have no chance of training and we may not have a chance to monitor what the players are doing during the lockdown.”
However, Gunda said they would engage CAF to consider team’s readiness for the qualifiers.
“As a member association of the CAF, we are all affected in one way or the other. By June, will we all be able to prepare appropriately for the qualifiers? Those are some issues which at some level we will be engaging CAF to hear how they can advise how best we can do it so that we do not just continue to play, but also maintain the high quality of football at that level,” he said.
Flames stand-in captain John CJ Banda, who is in the country after his Mozambican club UD Songo released him following the failure to kick off Mocambola League, said self training is crucial during the lockdown.
“I will just encourage my fellow players to keep on training individually so that when the qualifiers resume we will not struggle with fitness,” he said.
The Flames are on position three in Group B with three points while second-placed Burkina Faso are tied at four points with leaders Uganda. Bottom-placed South Sudan have no point.