The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which was due to be held in Cameroon in January and February next year, has been postponed and is now expected to be played in January and February 2022 instead.
It means club sides who would have been at risk of losing key players midway through next season can now breathe a sigh of relief for another 12 months as the 2020/21 campaign won’t be affected.
Liverpool stood to be among the most badly hit as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita could have been absent for several weeks at a crucial time of the season.
Other high profile Premier League players like Riyad Mahrez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Eric Bailly Wilfried Zaha, and Wilfred Ndidi might also be called up and mixed a chunk of next season.
The clash with the European club season has been a longstanding issue for the AFCON tournament and so the 2019 edition was actually played over the summer to combat that.
Similar was initially planned for 2021 (now 2022), only for the unfavorable climate in Cameroon in June and July to see it moved back to its former January/February slot.
Cameroon’s summer rainy season ensures that a June/July tournament is not really viable.
The reason for the postponement hinges on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the qualifying schedule. The qualifying rounds were due to finish in September, but three rounds of fixtures have been missed as a result of all international football being temporarily suspended.
One of the implications about moving the AFCON to 2022 means that it will now be played in the same year at the next World Cup, due to be held in Qatar. However, the World Cup will take place in November and December, meaning the tournaments will actually be during separate seasons.