The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is sure Egypt will host a successful African Nations Cup, which kick off date has been shifted by six days by the African football ruling body.
The competition was initially billed to hold from June 15 to July 13, but will now begin on June 21 and end on July 19. The shift in date, according to CAF, will enable Muslim players to get enough rest and recover from the scheduled fast a few days before the competition begins.
According to soccernet.ng, some of Africa’s biggest stars, including Egypt forward, Mohamed Salah and Senegal winger, Sadio Mane, are Muslims.
Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, making it difficult for their teams to train or play.
This year, Ramadan ends on June 4 and the move by CAF gives Muslim players nearly a week extra to prepare for Africa’s top tournament.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday, CAF’s First Vice President, Amaju Pinnick, who is also the president of AFCON Organizing Committee, assured that the continental football–ruling body is doing everything within its power to ensure that the competition this summer is a huge success.
Pinnick, who is also the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, said CAF was aware of the apprehension of the African football stakeholders, and is putting measures in place to tackle those fears and guarantee a seamless continental house party that everyone would be proud of.
“CAF is not unmindful of the reservations being harboured in some quarters, and feelings of anxiety being expressed in several fora by some individuals and groups. What is important is that we are taking note of all these and putting measures in place to tackle these genuine fears.
“At the end of the day, football would be the winner. We are very positive that those measures we have put in place and those we have lined up will culminate in an occasion that every African would be proud of, and which will leave the average football follower elsewhere enthralled.”
There has been widespread anxiety within the African football community over the hosting of the first-ever 24-nation AFCON, following CAF’s decision to strip Cameroun of the hosting right at the end of November last year, with new host Egypt announced only early this month.
On Saturday, CAF’s Emergency Committee announced that the draw ceremony for the championship would hold in Cairo on April 12, which is exactly 10 weeks to the opening match of the championship.
In previous years and decades, host nations of Africa’s flagship tournament had been privileged to have more time to prepare for the various obligations involved in staging the competition, with the exception of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (the last two host nations) who had few months to step in after originally–designated hosts balked late in the day.