AFCON 2023: Banned Kenya and Zimbabwe to be included in draw

AFCON 2023: Banned Kenya and Zimbabwe to be included in draw

Despite being banned by FIFA for government influence, Kenya and Zimbabwe will be included in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification draw on Tuesday in Johannesburg.

“We’ve included the two countries in the hopes that the bans would be removed no later than two weeks before the first matchday in June,” a representative for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) told AFP.

The sacking of national football association officials led by Felton Kamambo by a Zimbabwe government-funded umbrella sport organisation aroused the wrath of FIFA, who accused them of failing to account for public monies.

After its president, Nick Mwendwa, was indicted with multiple charges of fraud, Kenyan sports ministry officials liquidated the national football federation.

The CAF has set a mid-May deadline for the bans to be rescinded, beyond which the countries will be excluded from participating.

If Kenya and Zimbabwe do not have their suspensions removed, their groups will be reduced from four to three, with the top two finishers still qualifying for the finals.

The first two qualifying matchdays will take place on May 30 and June 14, followed by two further rounds on September 19 and 27, and the final two on March 20 and 28 of the following year.

Ivory Coast, which hosted the first edition of the tournament in 1984 with only eight teams and was won for the first time by Cameroon, will host a 24-team event in June and July next year.

After winning the African title in 1992 in Senegal and again in 2015 in Equatorial Guinea, the Ivorians are hoping to complete a triple.

Six stadiums are necessary as the Cup of Nations was expanded from 16 to 24 teams three years ago, and the Ivorian options are Abidjan (two), Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro, and Yamoussoukro.

CAF president Patrice Motsepe was updated on the stadium construction and renovations during a visit to the west African country earlier this month.

Except for the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny, formerly the principal Ivorian stadium but now second in size in Abidjan to the new national stadium, the South African heard that good progress had been achieved.

The stadium named after the president who controlled the former French colony for 33 years following independence in 1960 is only around 25% built, according to reports.

The draw will be assisted by former African players Lucas Radebe, a South African centre-back who captained Leeds United when they were last in the Premier League, and Ivory Coast forward Salomon Kalou.

Both have won AFCON finals, Radebe in 1996 with Bafana Bafana and Kalou in 2015 with the Elephants.

Instead than relying on frequently meaningless friendly matches in the tournament build-up, a seeded draw will establish 12 groups of four teams, with the Ivory Coast participating to acquire competitive match practice.

Ivory Coast will qualify regardless of where they finish in the group, with the top three teams also earning a spot in the finals.

Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon, and Ghana are among the top five African qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The Gambia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Sao Tome & Principe, and South Sudan won preliminary ties, while Botswana got a walkover.

Gambia, who swept Africa this year by reaching the AFCON quarter-finals, just missed out on a place in the final with an extra-time penalty saving a draw against Chad.

AFCON DRAW SEEDINGS

Pot 1: Senegal (holders), Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroon, Algeria, Mali, Ivory Coast (hosts), Burkina Faso, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo

Pot 2: South Africa, Cape Verde, Guinea, Gabon, Benin, Uganda, Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Kenya, Sierra Leone

Pot 3: Namibia, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Libya, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Angola, Comoros

Pot 4: Tanzania, Central African Republic, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Liberia, South Sudan, Sao Tome e Principe

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse

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