The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has been postponed until 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament, hosted by Cameroon, had been slated to begin in January.
“Health is our No. 1 priority. We must remain vigilant,” Ahmad Ahmad, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) president, said in a news conference on Tuesday, according to the BBC.
As a result, the biannual competition will now take place in the same year as the 2022 World Cup. AFCON was shifted to odd-numbered years beginning in 2013 to avoid that clash, which put African sides at a disadvantage in the World Cup due to the extensive scheduling demands.
Traditionally played in January and February, last year’s tournament – won by Algeria – was moved to the summer months in order to avoid running up against the European club season. The next installment in Cameroon will return to the conventional time frame, though.
The delay until 2022 means countless clubs in Europe – including, most prominently, Liverpool – won’t lose key players to the tournament next season. The likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are among those who will now be available for the entirety of the 2020-21 club campaign.