The drama surrounding the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations and how it will affect the clubs of the players involved is seemingly never-ending. While teams are still waiting to resolve issues stemming from the last round of drama surrounding when clubs would have to release their players to their respective national teams, there is now a new hurdle to jump.
Al Ahly, the current CAF Champions League champions, have petitioned CAF to move the AFCON start date from January 9, 2022, to January 3. As CAF CL champs, Al Ahly are invited to participate in the Club World Cup from February 3-12. The problem is that AFCON is set to finish on February 6th.
This means any Al Ahly players who make it deep into AFCON will not be available for the Club World Cup. The Egyptian club are understandably keen to have their full squad available. So, they have requested that CAF move up AFCON so their players are able to participate in both competitions.
This is the last thing Liverpool want to see. Moving AFCON up to January 3rd would guarantee the Reds will not have Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, or Naby Keïta for their January 2nd match against Chelsea, rendering the efforts currently being made to ensure those three are available to face the Blues moot.
FIFA rules mandate that national teams can call up their players as early as 14 days before an international competition. So, moving AFCON would also mean Liverpool would have to petition the aforementioned players’ FAs to have them available for December 26th and 28th matches against Leeds United and Leicester City.
It’s unclear how likely it is that the starting date for AFCON will be moved, but one would think it isn’t especially likely given it would throw planning and ticketing for the tournament into chaos less than a month before it begins.
Regardless of whether CAF decides to move AFCON to accommodate Al Ahly or not, this situation is really unfortunate for all parties involved. It’s yet another example of how the packed football calendar creates problems for both clubs and national teams.
No matter what is decided, one or the other loses out, and that’s a shame for the teams, the players, and the fans.