European clubs, which earlier canvassed outright postponement of the competition as it holds during the peak period of their leagues, opted to plead with Confederation of African Football (CAF) for delayed release of players, to ease the burden of crowded Christmas and New Year fixtures on their squads.
The 24-nation African Cup opens on January 9 at the Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé, with the final on February 6, FIFA regulations had mandated players to be released today, extending the time they would be missing from games in European competitions like the Premier League that plays across the Christmas and New Year period and throughout the African Cup.
FIFA Deputy Secretary General, Mattias Grafström, yesterday, confirmed the “commitment of solidarity” to the World Leagues Forum and European Leagues.
“CAF has decided that for those players who have official club matches between December 27, 2021 and January 3, 2022, the participating member associations in question are to be directed that these players may remain with their clubs to participate in these matches and be released after the last match during this period,” Grafström wrote.
The World Leagues Forum called the earlier requirement for players to go on international duty “unreasonable and disproportionate for many clubs and players who are still playing at that time” but CAF and FIFA have shown a willingness to respond to those concerns.
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“It has been highlighted to FIFA that this decision is taken in the spirit of goodwill and solidarity with the affected clubs in recognition of the fact that they, like all members of the football community, have been adversely affected by the onset of the COVID pandemic,” Grafström continued.
“It is also assumed that a spirit of mutual cooperation remain between CAF and all relevant stakeholders in this regard, including matters related to the release of players and the provision of sporting exemptions to travel and quarantine restrictions if required in the future.
Njidda Usa/The Guardian
AFCON- European clubs’ granted request to delay African players release