The European Clubs Association (ECA) has threatened to bar players from representing their countries at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations AFCON , which will be held in Cameroon next January.
The ECA expressed its concerns in a letter to Fifa’s Deputy General Secretary – Mattias Grafstrom – about the rising cases of the new variant of coronavirus, Omicron, and travel restrictions imposed by government officials.
The ECA wrote, categorizing its concerns into three principles:
“The obligation for each national association that wishes to call a player for national team duty to establish, to the satisfaction of the respective clubs, that all applicable medical protocols have been implemented and enforced.
“Secondly, there cannot be mandatory release in circumstances where the release period’s duration would necessitate players missing official club matches.
“Lastly, the unavailability of players for club activities cannot extend beyond the agreed release periods.”
The European clubs, on the other hand, claim Caf has yet to meet the principles, which could prevent them from releasing their players this month.
“Against this background, please note that, at its meeting of December 2021, the ECA Executive Board unanimously re-confirmed its position that the three principles referred to above must be strictly respected and, should this not be the case, that players not be released for national team duty,” read a part of ECA’s letter.
“At present, these three principles are at risk of not being respected in connection with the upcoming January releases.
“With regards to applicable protocols, as far as we are aware, Caf has not yet made available a suitable medical and operational protocol for the Afcon tournament, in the absence of which clubs will not be able to release players for the tournament.
“For certain clubs expected to release players, including English and French club, domestic competition matches are due to take place up until early January and hence, the overlap of the 2022 Afcon release dates (with call ups from 27th of December) is unmanageable.”
In addition, after meeting with the country’s Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Mouelle Kombi, on Wednesday, December 15, the newly-elected president of the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot), Samuel Eto’o, dismissed reports that the Afcon tournament might be postponed.
Eto’o confirmed that preparations for the tournament, which begins on January 9, are well underway.
“It was great meeting with Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, Minister of Sports & Physical Education as the preparations for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations intensify,” he wrote on Instagram.
“With just 24 days to go until we host Afcon here in Cameroon, collaboration is key.”